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Working As a Court Of Appeals Judge

  • Getting Information
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $46,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Court Of Appeals Judge Do

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

Duties

Judges and hearing officers typically do the following:

  • Research legal issues
  • Read and evaluate information from documents, such as motions, claim applications, and records
  • Preside over hearings and listen to and read arguments by opposing parties
  • Determine if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
  • Decide if the procedure is being conducted according to the rules and law
  • Apply laws or precedents to reach judgments and to resolve disputes between parties
  • Write opinions, decisions, and instructions regarding cases, claims, and disputes

Judges commonly preside over trials and hearings of cases regarding nearly every aspect of society, from individual traffic offenses to issues concerning the rights of large corporations. Judges listen to arguments and determine if the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, judges may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or they may set conditions for their release. They also approve search warrants and arrest warrants.

Judges interpret the law to determine how a trial will proceed, which is particularly important when unusual circumstances arise for which standard procedures have not been established. They ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly and that the legal rights of all involved parties are protected.

In trials in which juries are selected to decide the case, judges instruct jurors on applicable laws and direct them to consider the facts from the evidence. For other trials, judges decide the case. A judge who determines guilt in criminal cases may impose a sentence or penalty on the guilty party. In civil cases, the judge may award relief, such as compensation for damages, to the parties who win lawsuits.

Judges use various forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and to prepare for trials. In some cases, a judge may manage the court’s administrative and clerical staff.

The following are examples of types of judges and hearing officers:

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates preside over trials and hearings. They typically work in local, state, and federal courts.

In local and state court systems, they have a variety of titles, such as municipal court judge, county court judge, and justice of the peace. Traffic violations, misdemeanors, small-claims cases, and pretrial hearings make up the bulk of these judges’ work.

In federal and state court systems, district court judges and general trial court judges have authority over any case in their system. Appellate court judges rule on a small number of cases, by reviewing decisions of the lower courts and lawyers’ written and oral arguments.

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers usually work for local, state, and federal government agencies. They decide many issues, such as whether a person is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or whether employment discrimination occurred.

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How To Become A Court Of Appeals Judge

Judges and hearing officers typically must have a law degree and work experience as a lawyer.

Education

Although there may be a few positions available for those with a bachelor’s degree, a law degree typically is required for most jobs as a local, state, or federal judge or hearing officer.

In addition to earning a law degree, federal administrative law judges must pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Earning a law degree usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law degree programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. For more information on how to become a lawyer, see the profile on lawyers.

Most judges and magistrates must be appointed or elected into their positions, a procedure that often takes political support. Many local and state judges are appointed to serve fixed renewable terms, ranging from 4 to 14 years. A few judges, such as appellate court judges, are appointed for life. Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for judgeships in many states and for some federal judgeships. Some local and state judges are elected to a specific term in an election process.

For specific state information, including information on the number of judgeships by state, term lengths, and requirements for qualification, visit the National Center for State Courts.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most judges and hearing officers learn their skills through years of experience as practicing lawyers. Some states allow those who are not lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but opportunities are better for those with law experience.

Training

All states have some type of orientation for newly elected or appointed judges. The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, National Judicial College, and National Center for State Courts provide judicial education and training for judges and other judicial branch personnel.

More than half of all states, as well as Puerto Rico, require judges to take continuing education courses while serving on the bench. General and continuing education courses usually last from a few days to 3 weeks.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most judges and hearing officers are required to have a law license. In addition, they typically must maintain their law license and good standing with their state bar association while working as a judge or hearing officer.

Advancement

Advancement for some judicial workers means moving to courts with a broader jurisdiction. Advancement for various hearing officers includes taking on more complex cases, practicing law, and becoming district court judges.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Judges and hearing officers must apply rules of law. They cannot let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings. For example, they must base their decisions on specific meanings of the law when evaluating and deciding whether a person is a threat to others and must be sent to jail.

Decisionmaking skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to weigh the facts, to apply the law and rules, and to make a decision relatively quickly.

Listening skills. Judges and hearing officers evaluate information, so they must pay close attention to what is being said.

Reading skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to distinguish important facts from large amounts of sometimes complex information and then evaluate the facts objectively.

Writing skills. Judges and hearing officers write recommendations and decisions on appeals and disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.

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Court Of Appeals Judge Typical Career Paths

Average Length of Employment
County Court Judge 3.3 years
Circuit Judge 3.3 years
Judge 2.4 years
Federal Judge 0.9 years
Top Careers Before Court Of Appeals Judge
Internship 15.6%
Law Clerk 13.6%
Legal Extern 10.4%
Attorney 9.1%
Volunteer 5.2%
Partner 5.2%
Associate 4.5%
Judge 3.2%
President 2.6%
Paralegal 2.6%
Fellow 2.6%
Owner 1.9%
Top Careers After Court Of Appeals Judge
Attorney 15.0%
Law Clerk 10.9%
Internship 10.4%
Associate 7.8%
Volunteer 6.2%
Paralegal 4.1%
Judge 3.6%
Director 2.1%

Do you work as a Court Of Appeals Judge?

Top Skills for A Court Of Appeals Judge

  1. Court Hearings
  2. Family Law
  3. Judicial Opinions
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepared orders and draft opinions, attended court hearings and participated in daily chambers conferences regarding pending cases.
  • Assisted unrepresented litigants in filing petitions and other court documents *Composed orders after hearings *Attended family law court proceedings
  • Researched, reviewed, and drafted judicial opinions concerning probate matters.
  • Researched complex legal issues and drafted memorandum of law.
  • Prepare, analyze and process legal documents and correspondence relating to appellate and municipal division remands.

Court Of Appeals Judge Demographics

Gender

Female

44.6%

Male

43.5%

Unknown

11.9%
Ethnicity

White

59.5%

Black or African American

14.7%

Hispanic or Latino

14.6%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

4.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.0%

French

20.0%

Portuguese

5.0%

Ukrainian

5.0%

Russian

5.0%

Dari

5.0%

Urdu

5.0%
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Court Of Appeals Judge Education

Schools

Temple University

8.3%

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

8.3%

Brooklyn Law School

8.3%

New York Law School

6.3%

Florida State University

6.3%

Fayetteville State University

6.3%

University of Florida

4.2%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

4.2%

Washington and Lee University

4.2%

American University

4.2%

Mercer University

4.2%

University of Texas at El Paso

4.2%

John Marshall Law School

4.2%

University of Miami

4.2%

Suffolk University

4.2%

Albany Law School

4.2%

Georgia Southwestern State University

4.2%

Fordham University

4.2%

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

4.2%

Central Washington University

2.1%
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Majors

Law

45.1%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

12.1%

Criminal Justice

8.7%

Political Science

6.9%

Business

5.2%

Psychology

2.3%

Education

2.3%

Taxation

1.7%

History

1.7%

Nursing

1.7%

Legal Support Services

1.7%

Ethnic, Gender And Minority Studies

1.2%

Sociology

1.2%

Finance

1.2%

Real Estate

1.2%

Dispute Resolution

1.2%

Legal Studies

1.2%

Environmental Science

1.2%

Journalism

1.2%

Economics

1.2%
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Degrees

Doctorate

40.6%

Masters

19.8%

Bachelors

19.8%

Other

12.9%

Associate

3.0%

Certificate

2.5%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.5%
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