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What is the difference between a U.S. Magistrate and District Court Judge?

Posted by Russell Babcock | Mar 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

Cual es la diferencia entre magistrado y juez de distrito?

What is the difference between a U.S. Magistrate and District Court Judge?

Many individuals wonder why there are two types of federal judges and what the difference is between them.

A magistrate judge is appointed by the District court judges to serve a renewable term of ten years.  They are much more limited in the matters that they can handle.  They cannot try or sentence a person on a felony case.  More than 95% of the charges filed in the Southern District of California are felony charges so the magistrate can only handle the initial court hearings such as arraignment, the bail hearing, and take the change of plea, which is later reviewed by a District Court Judge.

In the El Centro Courthouse, there is only one magistrate judge. That is the reason why all felony cases that originate in El Centro come to San Diego several weeks after an arrest is made.

The United States District Court Judge is appointed by the President of the United States and is tenured for life.  Most important, this judge presides  over felony trials and sentencing.

Including the magistrate judge in El Centro, Peter Lewis, and the Senior District Court Judges, who are semi-retired, there are currently 17 District Court Judges and 12 magistrates serving in the Southern District of California, which includes  all San Diego and Imperial County. I have personally appeared in front of every one of these judges except the one newest magistrate judge

It is important that the criminal defense attorney who represents you or a loved one have a very intimate knowledge of all of the assigned judges.  Unlike the State court,  a defendant has no right to change judges.  Of course, all of the judges are human beings with their own biases and points of view.  Some judges genuinely care about the family circumstances of a defendant whereas others are more analytical and focus more on the aspects of the case. 

At the Law Offices of Russell Babcock, we feel it is very important to know the background of each judge so we can make the most effective presentation for our clients.

About the Author

Russell Babcock

Conozca a russell Russell S. Babcock (Founder + Owner) Spanish Speaking Criminal Defense Attorney  (Federal and State Court) The law firm of Russell S. Babcock was formed to provide the highest quality of federal and state criminal defense services at reasonable prices. We are a full service c...


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