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Chief Justice


The court system in the US can get complicated. There are many different kinds of lawyers, court houses, and types of trials. But each branch of the system has a few things in common; one of them is that each court house is made up of judges, and each group of judges is presided over by the chief justice. This is a prestigious position, one that takes a long time and a lot of experience to attain.

The chief justice oversees many of the sittings of the court, and often makes decisions about the cases, dividing them up amongst the various other judges who work within the court house. Along with working in a supervisory role, a chief justice still works within the court system as a judge.

Judges are the people who work at the top levels of the court system, making all the major decisions when a case comes to trial. The judge decides when the case should go to court, and decides on a verdict and sentencing. If the case is being tried before a jury, however, the decision is not up to the judge about guilt, however, the judge still needs to decide on a sentence, and must also ensure that the jury has a good understanding of the law.

As well as being a good judge in the courtroom, the duties can also include research before, during, and after trials. Judges must be on top of new laws, case histories and the Bill of Rights. Judges also need to be fair, open-minded and, most importantly, be able to judge without being judgmental.

Judging is not easy, and a good judge will have a lot of experience as a lawyer or law professor.
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  Interests and Skills  
Anyone looking to become a chief justice needs to be interested in fairness, and in promoting respect for rights, freedoms and the Constitution. A chief justice will be organized, a good communicator, who can oversee other judges and trials, as well as the trials they are presiding over. A chief justice often has to make tough decisions alone, often regarding major issues; therefore, a candidate for the position must have lots of self-confidence and bravery. The ability to see both sides of a story, and listen to all parties involved, is crucial, as is patience, a strong set of morals, and a fantastic memory--any judge must be able to pull up details and past trials for reference when necessary. Good reading, writing and thinking skills are important, as well as the ability to make good, just decisions quickly and without regret.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Supervise other judges
  • Decide which judges take which trials
  • Preside over trials, interpreting and enforcing rules of procedure
  • Make rulings regarding evidence
  • Instruct the jury on laws and legal proceedings
  • Decide guilt, innocence, or degree of liability of the defendant in non-jury trials
  • Pass sentences
  • Prepare for trials or sentencing through research
  • Settle arguments between lawyers
  • Interpret the law, in case there is no similar trial in the past to base a judgement on
  • There are many things to do in the role of Chief Justice. Along with making decisions about internal legal matters, they must be accountable for the legal proceedings held publicly, as well. A typical day will find a chief justice working with and consulting with other judges, meeting with lawyers, and researching upcoming trials. Judges use their brains all day long, and must be able to juggle different questions regarding the trials: possible outcomes, evidence, and moral issues. Judges work closely with others, but at times, must rely solely on themselves and their instincts.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Judges are government employees, who work for the people and are paid through taxes. They work in courthouses, courtrooms, and offices, where they meet with other judges and lawyers. They may also spend quite a lot of time in law libraries, doing research on upcoming cases or past trials. They will work long hours, but will have some weekends and holiday time off. A chief justice may be required to come in during off time in case of an emergency.

  Long Term Career Potential  
After attaining the position of Chief Justice, there aren't many higher positions to aspire to. They may consider moving up to Supreme Court Justice, or to becoming the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, should they choose to move out of practicing, there is also the option of writing, holding conferences and lectures, or teaching at a university.

  Educational Paths  
The first step towards becoming a chief justice is a bachelor's degree. While there is no specified course to take before applying to law school, it is a good idea for prospective lawyers to do their undergrad in English, communications, social studies or political science. Once they have their undergrad degree, and have scored high on the LSAT, they have to complete three years of law school, a very demanding three years! Law is one of the toughest areas to study, but once students are finished, they are eligible to write the bar examination, enabling them to practice. The requirements for the bar can vary from state to state, depending on where you plan to live and practice. The bar examinations are accessible to everyone--the times are sometimes extended for people with reading disorders.

Once they are licenced, they then join the ranks of lawyers, and move up to judicial positions through hard work, reputation and dedication to the study and practice of law.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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