Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judicial and executive powers. In other parts of the world, such as China, a magistrate was responsible for administration over a particular geographic area. Today, in some jurisdictions, a magistrate is a judicial officer who hears cases in a lower court, and typically deals with more minor or preliminary matters. In other jurisdictions (e.g., England and Wales), magistrates may be volunteers without formal legal training who perform a judicial role with regard to minor matters.
Magistrate (England and Wales)
In the legal system of England and Wales, there is a history of involving lay people, namely people from the local community who are not required to hold any legal qualifications, in the judicial decision-making process of the courts. They are called justices of the peace or magistrates.
These magistrates were termed "lay magistrates" to distinguish them from professional magistrates known as stipendiary magistrates (now district judges). District judges sit alone to hear cases and are permanently employed by the Ministry of Justice (until May 2007, the Department for Constitutional Affairs). Magistrates are not paid, apart from an allowance for loss of earnings, mileage and subsistence (which are at a standardised rate agreed by the Ministry of Justice). A practising solicitor or barrister may sit part-time as a deputy district judge. Retired district judges may occasionally sit as deputies. District judges are formally addressed in court as "sir" or "madam". In law reports, they are referred to as "DJ Smith" (or "DDJ Smith" for deputies).
Magistrates generally sit in threes in order to give judgement on a variety of cases in magistrates' courts, youth courts and family proceedings courts. The lead magistrate, known as the chairman, is formally addressed in court as "sir" or "madam" or "your worship", and the magistrates collectively as "your worships". In law reports, they are referred to as "John Smith JP" (for justice of the peace).
Magistrates deal with less serious criminal cases, such as minor theft, criminal damage, assaults, public disorder and motoring offences. All magistrates sit in adult criminal courts as "benches" of three (occasionally two), mixed in gender, age and ethnicity whenever possible to bring a broad experience of life to the bench. All three members of the bench have equal decision-making powers but only the chairman speaks in court and presides over proceedings. A qualified legal adviser, also known as the court clerk, sits with the bench in the court room and is available to them at all times during the court sitting.
The term "bench" is also used collectively to describe a group of magistrates assigned to a particular local justice area.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Magistrate \Mag"is*trate\, n. [L. magistratus, fr. magister
master: cf. F. magistrat. See Master.]
A person clothed with power as a public civil officer; a
public civil officer invested with the executive government,
or some branch of it. ``All Christian rulers and
--Book of Com. Prayer.
Of magistrates some also are supreme, in whom the
sovereign power of the state resides; others are
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
late 14c., "civil officer in charge of administering laws," from Old French magistrat, from Latin magistratus "a magistrate, public functionary," originally "magisterial rank or office," from magistrare "serve as a magistrate," from magister "chief, director" (see master). Related: Magistracy.
n. 1 (context legal English) A judicial officer with limited authority to administer and enforce the law. A magistrate's court may have jurisdiction in civil or criminal cases, or both. 2 (context Quebec English) A master's degree
Usage examples of "magistrate".
The magistrate was acquainted with the girl, and the mother laughed at having duped me so easily.
Gloucestershire Bert went northward to the British aeronautic park outside Birmingham, in the hope that he might be taken on and given food, for there the Government, or at any rate the War Office, still existed as an energetic fact, concentrated amidst collapse and social disaster upon the effort to keep the British flag still flying in the air, and trying to brisk up mayor and mayor and magistrate and magistrate in a new effort of organisation.
Isemonger, wife of the police magistrate of the Province, met me on the bright, green lawn studded with clumps of alamanda, which surrounds their lovely, palm-shaded bungalow.
Byzantine court, so ambitiously solicited by their dukes, would have degraded the magistrates of a free people.
I cannot recollect now, and could not render into English were I to recall them, should, upon complaint of the person aggrieved, and upon proof of the offence by the evidence of worthy and truth-speaking witnesses, be amerced in such penalty, not exceeding a certain sum, as in the estimation of the presiding magistrate should be held to be a proper compensation for the injury to his reputation suffered by the plaintiff.
In consequence of these lamentable occurrences, and the excited state of the northern districts of the kingdom, on the 22nd of July, Lord John Russell announced his intention of taking the requisite precautions for securing the tranquillity of the country, by placing at the hands of the magistrates a better organized constitutional force for putting the law into execution, and providing sufficient military means for supporting them in the performance of their duty.
Finally he and the magistrate finished their chat, and we glowered at Arem as he shut the door.
That this magistrate of austere appearance may have committed a crime in no way permits me to know him better.
One day, in the month of August it was, I had gone on some private concernment of my own to Kilmarnock, and Mr Booble, who was then oldest Bailie, naturally officiated as chief magistrate in my stead.
La Fayette, whom this measure had left without employment, feeling keenly the diminution of his importance, and instigated by the restlessness common to men of moderate capacity, conceived the hope of succeeding Bailly in the mayoralty of Paris, which that magistrate was on the point of resigning.
It was also in the Baptistery that the Florentines crowned poets and invested magistrates, blessed departing soldiers and honored those who returned from the wars.
When I had finished the letter I sent it to the magistrate, and then I began my packing.
The magistrate was kept waiting another ten minutes before the bail bondsman arrived.
He saw a man of elegant and easy figure, still young, with nothing solemn or imposing about him, having more the air of a boulevardier or of a sportsman than of a magistrate.
Bishop Steuben and the magistrate Bruer provoked confessions from the innocent and the guilty.