The dictionary defines a judge as "a public officer authorized to hear and determine causes in a court of law." The following essay will deal on how to become a judge, the requirements to become a judge, salaries, and the different types of judges and what kind of information they deal with.
Judges are some of the most important people in Canada. They are the men and women who sit on the benches in the courtrooms, whose responsibility it is not only to decide the fate of human beings, like themselves, but to steer and control the course of the law itself. The arrival advent of the 1982 Charter of Rights changed many things for judges. Since then, they have been handed the tasks of determining the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Canadians.
What is A Judge?
A judge basically decides on the fate of the person who stands before him. He listens to the information presented from the defendant, who is the accused, and the plaintiff, who is the accuser. Once all of the information has been presented, either the judge makes a decision or the jury does. In a small court, usually a judge makes the decision, but if the defendant was a mass murderer, and had eye witnesses seeing him kill a person, but had a virtual air-tight case for him that would get him out scot-free because he was the prime minister's son, there would be a jury.
A judge also passes sentence, which is how long the accused, if found guilty, should be punished. A judge is looked upon as "god" to the accused standing before him, the judge holds the fate of a person in his hands. They command respect, and the job of a judge, if it is the supreme court or a small claims court, the word "judge" holds special meaning.
A judge also has the good fortune to see almost every type of person living today, from killer to housewife, from jaywalker to terrorist.
Requirements to become a Judge and How to become One
Only the best can become a judge. The word "best" does not apply to the best at math, physics, or science, but the best that they can do. If a judge only sits there, in a black robe, staring attentively at the wall, then anyone could become a judge. To become a judge, you must have the ability to think logically, fairly, and to listen to two sides of a story, conflicting each other. One says guilty. One says mistake. The judge must listen and make his decision. Research on fifty judges from around Canada showed up the following information:
- All of them had a Law degree.
- 60 percent said that they hadn't planned on being a judge
The first step to becoming a judge is work. You have to work hard to graduate from law school. Many judges said that they hadn't planned on being a judge, and almost all of them said that it was the right job for their abilities. Many say that emotion during a trial can kill a judge, but to look at it from many different points of view to come up with a decision actually helps the judge to make the correct decision.
Many lawyers often become judges. It is a stereotype to say that judges are all old, white haired men, because there are many, many women judges. The information I have so far gathered says that a law degree is the first step. There really is no other second step. You can't really become a judge of a high court on just a law degree, so anything else which will help. One judge surveyed has his law degree, MBA, a degree in economics, and has gone to school for over half his life. He is seventy three years old. He is now retired, after being on the bench at Provincial Court for over 20 years. Provincial Court is where street level cases are heard.
To get into law school, you must have an average score of 94 percent or better, (1987 figures) and to graduate you must have 95 percent or better (again 1987 figures.) The first step is very tough. There are too many lawyers out there, but not enough judges. Hundreds of cases have been thrown out simply because they were waiting to be brought to trial. One person was waiting for over a year, and the case was thrown out.
Judges are selected to an appropriate court when they are needed. When a major case comes up into the Supreme Court, a judge is selected. When a new court opens up, a judge is selected. To become a judge, you have to wait and be patient until a job comes, much like a lawyer. Many judges sit, or work at a particular court. For example, there are fifty one judges at the Supreme Court of Canada.
A judge really boils down to a fancy lawyer. But not just any lawyer, not a prosecutor or a defence attorney, but both rolled into one who must make a decision for one of the two.
Type of Judges and their Salaries
(Average approximate salaries from judges in Canada.) Traffic Court:
- 40,000+ Provincial Court
- 50-60,000 Supreme Court
- 70-90,000+ Basic All-Around Judge
- Anywhere from 30-70,000
A Traffic Court judge deals with traffic accidents and offenses, jaywalking (although jaywalking usually just has a fine,) parking tickets, etc.
A provincial Court judge is the kind of judge who deals with domestic street violence. This is the type of judge seen on the TV show Night Court. Almost anything is presented in provincial court, from assault to arson, from second degree murder to littering. Most first degree murder charges are sent here, or if they have very serious ramifications, they are sent to the Supreme Court. Old City Hall is a Provincial Court.
The Supreme Court judge has a tough job, but not the toughest. The supreme court deals with reinterpretations of the law, changes of the law, (like the abortion law,) mass murderers or serious arson or car accidents.
A basic, all-around judge is the type of judge that deals with almost everything. He/she is not exactly a Supreme Court judge, but more than a Provincial Court judge. He/she deals with everything and probably has a second job with a law firm or something else, like a lawyer.
The first case history presented will be of one of libel. The plaintiffs, a man named Norris Walker and his company, Walker Brothers Quarries, had sued CTV for libel. WBQ was a family operation that had been in operation for several decades now, and for the past ten years or so most of their business consisted of disposing industrial waste. In the spring of 1980, W5, the investigative program on the CTV network, got some news that Walker Brothers was lax, or even illegal, in its methods it used for burying the industrial waste. W5 sent one of their reporters to get the story, which he did, an 18 minute segment for the show. The film was more for the idea of illegal burial methods. On October 26, 1980, W5 ran that 18 minute segment, and on january 1, 1981, Norris Walker, along with the company, sued CTV for libel.
The court consisted of a jury, since libel is one of the remaining civil actions in which a jury is required. The six person jury consisted of four women and two men. The plaintiff, Norris Walker and WBQ, kept explaining that the W5 segment had created an untrue picture of the Walker Brother's operations through biased film editing. Parts of the interviews that didn't fit the program's thesis that the company was a dangerous polluter were cut out. The show talked about in the community where the Walker Brother's operations were situated about that the company was up to no good, and in the interview with Norris Walker, no-one put the local gossip to Walker. Unfair, libellous, said the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs had enough witnesses to the stand to underline the point, but they weren't sure that the jury was getting it.
By the end of the trial, there could be a new record for the amount of money awarded to damages for the plaintiffs, said the plaintiff's attorney.
When the trial entered its third week, the defendants pressed that W5 presented a straightforward, account of the situation at Walker Brothers, as the facts revealed it to be. It was responsible journalism, as the public had a right to know, said the defendants. Anyway, the law permitted print and electronic media to comment fairly in matters of public concern. If the situation were turned around, it would put a crimp in investigative journalism. A noble defense from the defendants.
By October 18, 1981, all of the witnesses had been heard, and the plaintiffs made their address to the jury. He prowled in front of the jury box, beginning light, with a joke, and then escalating to listing all of the accusations W5 made at Walker Brothers, and after each accusation, he said the same two words: Not True. He said them until he was screaming, and until the words echoed off of the ceiling of the courtroom. A recess was called so the jury could take its coffee break.
When the jury came back, the plaintiffs resumed their address. The plaintiffs argued that W5 got hours of tapes and cut them down into 18 minutes, something that would make their show into something great and popular, and something that would attract hundreds of viewers, and when it was all finished, they said that Norris Walker was negligent and crooked. Porter was building up to something huge. It was the last two lines of his address: "When a man dies, all he leaves behind is his reputation and his good name." Court was adjourned for two and a half hours.
The jury retired to make its decision the next day. One person asked the judge what the decision would be. He responded that they might give the plaintiff something, maybe twenty five thousand dollars, no more, because he was libelled and because W5 didn't really seem to have cost the company any appreciable loss of business.
The next day, the jury handed the court clerk its decision, on two pieces of paper, which was handed to the judge. The judge studied it for a moment, and was tempted to tell the counsel how many zeroes he was looking at. Up until that moment the most money awarded for libel was $125,000. The figure the judge was looking at topped that figure by over one million dollars.
The jury had found that W5 libelled Norris Walker and his company, and it calculated the damages for libel in a number of categories. $25,000 in personal damages, $50,000 in exemplary damages to W5 for its offensive journalism, and an eye popping $883,000 in damages to the Walker Brothers company computed at one dollar for every person who was watching W5 the night W5 had broadcast that show, plus interest from January 1, 1981 when the lawsuit was initiated. Grand total: $1,372,048.
The preceding was an excellent example of how a judge must sit and listen through over nine months of argument and testimony. Patience is a virtue. Also, it was another good example of where slander can get you. It can get you into the hole of more than a million dollars. And, finally, it shows how competing with another TV show for your own gain, and hurting someone else to gain that, can hurt you even more. A judge: The toughest job in the business.
- JUDGES, Batten, Jack. Macmillan of Canada, 1986. Printed in Canada. ??