Judges - Duties • Research and know laws and precedents • Apply knowledge to cases • Trial Judges - Preside over trials and enforce rules of court • Jury trials – instruct jury on law • Nonjury trials – issue verdict/judgment • Criminal trials – issues sentence • Civil trials – decides how much in damages are owed • Appellate Judges – review cases and determine if an earlier trial was fair and followed the correct legal procedures.
NC Judges • Elected in non-partisan elections. • Candidates do not officially affiliate with a political party. • However, they may have a public history of leaning towards a particular party’s beliefs. • Magistrates are not elected, rather appointed by the Senior Superior Court Judge. • 4 year terms – NC District Court Judges • 8 year terms – NC Superior Judges, NC Appellate Judges, and Supreme Court Justices
Criminal Sentencing • Judges issue the sentence when a defendant is convicted of a crime. • Follow sentencing statutes that provide guidelines on minimum/maximum punishments for certain crimes. • Judges have some discretion (leeway) in sentencing… the sentencing statutes are guidelines. • Sentencing guidelines based on criminal history and seriousness of crime. • NC Felony Sentencing Guidelines (next slide) • Points – criminal history • Felony class – most serious to least serious
Judge’s Discretion in Sentencing • Pro: Judge can consider outside factors such as poverty, lack of education, abuse, etc. • Lighter sentences due to “gray areas” concerning the context of the crime • Odd punishment – Florida judge requires criminal to return to the scene of the crime for public humiliation. • Con: Two people who commit the same crime can get very different sentences. • Judges can fall victim to their biases in sentences • GREAT DUTY - Judges have power to give a life sentence or allow the death penalty. • Jury decides guilt or innocence. • Jury decides life or death. • Judge can uphold or lessen sentence..