Federal judges are different from state judges in several ways. A federal judge is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. A state judge is usually appointed by the governor of the state or elected by members of the local community. There are different types of judges in Maryland federal courts, including magistrate judges and district judges. If an individual wants to know more about judges and what to expect from the federal trial process, they should consult an experienced federal criminal attorney that could guide them.
Before further discussing the different types of judges in Maryland federal cases, it is important to recognize that bench trials are not the only option in federal cases. The defendant has a right to a jury trial just like in a state court. The jury decides the verdict of guilty or not guilty. The person can waive the right to a jury trial and elect to have a judge decide the case instead of a jury. The judge reviews the evidence and determines the verdict of guilty or not guilty.
Federal judges can give more time and attention to each case. State court judges are extremely busy, especially in Maryland courts. They have full schedules and often oversee busy dockets with criminal cases, civil matters, family law, and property cases. Sometimes, different cases are heard on the same day or even the same docket in some courtrooms.
Federal court judges have a much less cluttered docket. They have more time and attention to give to each individual case that comes before them. A federal judge has more resources including clerks, support staff, and infrastructure. In addition to having more time to dedicate to each case before them, federal judges are more comfortably staffed and supported than most state judges.
Magistrate judges are federal judges elected by the federal district judges in their jurisdiction. For example in Maryland, full-time U.S. Magistrate Judges are appointed to eight-year terms by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Part-time U.S. Magistrate Judges are appointed to four-year terms. The magistrate judges oversee the first few court dates in the federal criminal court process.
At the initial arraignment, the accused is presented with the charges and advised of their constitutional rights including the right to an attorney. When bail is determined, the bail hearing is often done by a magistrate judge, one of the types of judges in Maryland federal courts. The preliminary hearing where the government attempts to show probable cause is also overseen by a magistrate judge. In the next phase of the court process known as preliminary motions, the case is usually sent to the assigned federal judge who oversees the arguments and the trial. The trial is almost always before a judge as opposed to a magistrate judge.
Magistrate judges can also take pleas if both parties agree to a plea and the defendant signs a plea agreement after an offer is extended. The plea can take place before a magistrate judge, but they are more often before the assigned federal district judge.
One of the other types of judges in Maryland federal courts is district judges. The judges of the federal court system are authorized under Article III of the Constitution because the federal court system is authorized by the language of Article III. The judges are appointed by the President and approved by the U.S. Senate. They are appointed for life. There is no term limit, it is a lifetime appointment. The judge serves until they retire or passes away.
Congress could impeach a federal judge and a federal judge can be removed under extreme circumstances. It is exceedingly rare for a federal judge to be impeached. If there is a personal conflict or some other reason why a federal judge feels they may be biased or they are unable to hear a case, their cases can be re-assigned or a federal judge can recuse themselves. In Maryland, the state judges are elected and serve a term of 15 years in circuit court.