United States federal judge
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United States of America
In the United States, the title of federal judge means a
In addition to the
Every judge appointed to such a court may be categorized as a federal judge; such positions include the
Other judges serving in the federal courts, including
The primary function of the federal judges is to resolve matters brought before the United States federal courts. Most federal courts in the United States are courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning that they hear only cases for which jurisdiction is authorized by the United States constitution or federal statutes. However, federal district courts are authorized to hear a wide range of civil and criminal cases. District Court judges are recognized as having a certain degree of inherent authority to manage the matters before them, ranging from setting the dates for trials and hearings to holding parties in contempt or otherwise sanctioning them for improper behavior. In other circumstances their actions are dictated by federal law, the federal rules of procedure, or "local" rules created by the specific court system itself.
"Article III federal judges" (as opposed to judges of some courts with special jurisdictions) serve "during good behavior" (often paraphrased as appointed "for life"). Judges hold their seats until they resign, die, or are removed from office. Although the legal orthodoxy is that judges cannot be removed from office except by
As of 2018, federal district judges are paid $208,000 a year, circuit judges $220,600,
Thus, Chief Justice Roberts has warned that "judges are no longer drawn primarily from among the best lawyers in the practicing bar" and "If judicial appointment ceases to be the capstone of a distinguished career and instead becomes a stepping stone to a lucrative position in private practice, the Framers' goal of a truly independent judiciary will be placed in serious jeopardy."
Each federal judge serves at a particular "duty station" for the duration of his or her federal service. This is important because of the relationship among several federal statutes. First, 28 U.S.C. § 456(a) entitles federal judges to reimbursement of transportation and "subsistence" expenses incurred while transacting official business away from their duty stations. Section 456 also prescribes that the District of Columbia is the duty station of all members of the U.S. Supreme Court, the D.C. Circuit, the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Second, there are several reasons federal judges need to transact official business outside of their regular courthouse. 28 U.S.C. §§ 291 and 292 authorize a broad variety of temporary reassignments of circuit and district judges, both horizontally (i.e., to other circuits or districts) and vertically (so that a district judge can hear appeals and a circuit judge can try cases). Many federal judges serve on administrative panels like the judicial council for their circuit or the
The discipline process of federal judges is initiated by the filing of a complaint by any person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct "prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or alleging that such judge is unable to discharge all the duties of the office by reason of mental or physical disability." If the chief judge of the
If a judge who is the subject of a complaint holds his or her office during good behavior, action taken by the judicial council may include certifying disability of the judge. The judicial council may also, in its discretion, refer any complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 351, along with the record of any associated proceedings and its recommendations for appropriate action, to the
Once a judge meets age and service requirements he or she may retire and will then earn his or her final salary for the remainder of his or her life, plus cost-of-living increases. The "Rule of 80" is the commonly used shorthand for the age and service requirement for a judge to retire, or assume
Under section 376 a survivor's annuity to benefit the widow, widower or minor child of the judge may be purchased via a deduction of 2.2% to 3.5% from the retirement benefit.
There are currently 870 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 673 for the district courts and nine on the
The total number of active federal judges is constantly in flux, for two reasons. First, judges retire or die, and a lapse of time occurs before new judges are appointed to fill those positions. Second, from time to time Congress will increase (or, less frequently, decrease) the number of federal judgeships in a particular judicial district, usually in response to shifting population numbers or a changing workload in that district. Although the number of Supreme Court justices has remained the same for well over a century, the number of court of appeals judges has more than doubled since 1950, and the number of district court judges has increased more than three-fold in that period. In addition, some district court judges serve on more than one court at a time.
Unlike the judges of Article III courts, non-Article III judges are appointed for specified terms of office. Examples include