Magistrate Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Magistrate, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Magistrate?

(n) Magistrate is the person authorized to perform the duties of the judge in a court, place of judicial authority or judicial functions specially entrusted on them. In certain statues the administrative executives of a province are also considered as magistrate

History and Meaning of Magistrate

Magistrate is a legal term with a long history that can be traced back to ancient Rome. In modern legal usage, a magistrate is an individual authorized to perform the duties of a judge in a court of law. Magistrates are commonly appointed to handle minor civil and criminal cases, and to issue warrants and perform other judicial functions as specially entrusted by the courts or other judicial authorities. They are typically assigned to preside over district courts, traffic courts, juvenile courts, and small claims courts.

In many common law jurisdictions, the role of a magistrate is somewhat limited in comparison to that of a judge. Magistrates are usually not required to hold law degrees and may be appointed based on other qualifications or experience, such as training in mediation, arbitration or conflict resolution.

Examples of Magistrate

  1. In England and Wales, magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor and preside over the majority of criminal cases in the lower courts, such as the Magistrates' Court.
  2. In the United States, magistrates are appointed by federal district court judges to perform a wide range of duties, including issuing search warrants, setting bail, and holding preliminary hearings.
  3. In Canada, magistrates are known as justices of the peace and are appointed by the provincial government to perform quasi-judicial functions relating to criminal and civil law.

Legal Terms Similar to Magistrate

  1. Judge - an official in a court of law who presides over and decides cases.
  2. Clerk of Court - an official responsible for maintaining the records and documents of a court.
  3. Bailiff - an officer of the court who is responsible for maintaining order and security in a court of law.