Definition - What does Magistrate mean?

In the broadest sense, a magistrate is a judge or someone with similar responsibilities.

The term is also used to describe an elected or appointed state or federal court official who has limited authority to carry out certain judicial functions. The former derives its power from state statues, and the latter is appointed by federal district court judges in accordance with federal law.

Justipedia explains Magistrate

Depending on what is set forth in the state rules governing their position, a local magistrate may have the power to:

  • Preside in certain criminal or civil hearings
  • Issue warrants in criminal and/or civil cases
  • Issue certain orders in connection with domestic relations cases

On the other hand, a federal magistrate may:

  • Render decisions on certain matters
  • Preside at some hearings
  • Review and submit material to district court judges

Federal magistrates are precluded from hearing felony cases or overseeing the jury selection in such matters.

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