Judges direct what goes on in court. They listen to witnesses and lawyers and decide cases. They have lots of authority and responsibility.
Ability to stay neutral
We often picture judges wearing long, curly wigs, banging their desks with a wooden hammer to keep order in the court. But those days are gone. Judges are still authority figures who have a lot of responsibility, but they don’t need wigs to do their job.
Judges conduct civil and criminal court cases. They make sure everyone follows the rules, just like referees at a hockey game.
After all sides have given their evidence (proof), the judge must make a decision. The judge has to be fair and apply the law to the facts of the case. This often means judges spend long hours in an office, reading and writing.
A judge’s decision can have an important effect on people’s lives. For example, deciding that someone is guilty of a crime or who gets custody of the children after a divorce can really change a person’s life.
Judges need good analytical skills and must have expert knowledge of the law. They must be excellent listeners and always be neutral.
- manage cases from beginning to end
- direct court hearings to make sure everyone follows the rules
- listen to what is said in court by lawyers, experts and other witnesses
- analyze evidence (proof), research the law that applies to the case
- make a decision and explain how it was made
Judges work in their offices when reading case files and writing decisions. They spend the rest of their time in court hearing cases.
Judges have a lot of responsibility. This can be stressful and means they work very long hours. They‘re very busy and have to do lots of reading and writing.
There is no “judge school” in Canada.
Judges are chosen from lawyers who have been members of a bar association (official association of lawyers) for at least 10 years.
The federal and provincial governments select judges, depending on the court.
Lawyers who become judges usually spent their careers representing people in court, but this isn't a requirement.
Potential judges are carefully chosen. They need to know the law inside out and have spotless professional and personal reputations.
Judges make a very good living.
Their salary is set by the law and is made public. They receive a fixed yearly salary no matter how many hours they work.
Their salary depends on which court they work at. For example, municipal court judges don’t make as much as judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. But most earn more than $200,000 a year.
The Court of Quebec’s website explains what judges do and how they are chosen for this court.
The website of the Commission for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada also has information about judges, the work they do and how much they’re paid.
Government bodies supervise the conduct of judges. To learn more about these bodies and about the ethical rules judges must follow, visit the websites of the following bodies: