Ewasiuk, George - Criminal Court Judge

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[edit] Job Title (George Ewasiuk)

Criminal Court Judge

[edit] General Overview

A criminal court judge is the head figure in a criminal trial. At its core, the role of a judge is to evaluate the arguments made by lawyers and/or defendants and apply the law. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge ultimately passes a sentence and imposes penalties. In making his/her decision, the judge must remain completely impartial, letting the rule of law guide the verdict.

[edit] Job Duties and Responsibilities

While lawyers present arguments, the judge must provide an independent and impartial assessment of the facts and how the law applies to those facts. During this time, the judge must carefully consider the arguments put forth to determine whether they are credible/believable, and may also ask relevant questions. In trials with juries, the judge is the one to give legal instructions to the juries so that they may deliberate. Once a verdict is reached, the judge passes the sentence and imposes an appropriate penalty depending on the severity of the offence.[1]


Judges are also responsible for staying up to date on changes to the law so as not to be applying outdated laws to current sentencing issues. When not in the courtroom, judges may handle administrative duties including but not limited to signing arrest warrants, search warrants, and orders for involuntary hospitalization.[2]

[edit] Typical Workday

As a generally rule, the typical workday of judges is relatively structured. A judge’s hearings are typically held at set points throughout the day. When not in a hearing, a judge will generally spend time researching and reviewing court-related concerns and issues relevant to the particular case. However, the typical workday also differs depending on several factors. First, the tier of court determines the workload. Higher tiers of court (such as the federal court) for instance are responsible for reviewing decisions of lower courts. This means that the highest tier of courts must review and stay up to date on the rulings of multiple lower courts.[3]


While cases generally have set time slots, they can potentially go on for longer than initially intended. The workday is not finished until all scheduled cases have been called and given ample time for consideration.[2]


Judges may also handle administrative manners including phone messages, mail and outgoing correspondence, signing court orders, criminal summons, arrest warrants, project planning, confirming scheduled jury trials, and setting bail upon pre-trial review for overnight arrests.[2]


Even when not officially on the clock, a judge may potentially have work. After hours, weekends and holidays can potentially require immediate and decisive attention to pre-trial review for setting bail, emergency protective orders in domestic violence cases, emergency mental health orders for involuntary hospitalization, search warrants, arrest warrants, and emergency orders for protection of abused or neglected children.[2]

[edit] Educational Requirements and Other Qualifications

To become a judge, one must first become a lawyer. To become a lawyer, you first need two to three years of undergraduate studies. There is no specific field required, but some common choices include political science, history, or economics.[4] One will then need a bachelor’s law degree from a recognized law school, the successful completion of the bar exam, followed by a period of articling (apprenticeship in a law firm). Judges need a license to practice law, but this is generally obtained as a lawyer; lawyers are licensed at a provincial or territorial level. Once a lawyer, one will need 10 years of completed membership at the Bar of one of the Provinces or Territories of Canada. One will then have the opportunity to enter the application process of being appointed provincially (provincial court) or federally (Federal court) as a judge.[5]


These applications are reviewed by the Judges Appointment Advisory Committee and a short list is prepared. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee meets to select candidates, and conducts reference checks, confidential inquiries and interviews. After ranking the candidates, the committee sends the list to the appropriate Attorney General who ultimately is required to make the appointment from that list.[6]


Prior to becoming a judge, potential candidates are expected to have made a significant contribution to the legal profession and their communities, which may include activity in law societies and volunteer and charitable work.[7]


Some Law schools in Ontario that offer qualifying Bachelor’s degrees include: University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, Western University, and University of Windsor.[8]

[edit] Related Skills, Interests, and Abilities

There are several key skills that a judge should possess. One of the most important is communication skills. A judge must be able to clearly communicate courtroom proceedings. This includes both being able to actively listen to arguments being presented, as well as clearly convey how the law is being applied. The judge will also need to be prepared to ask relevant questions during the trial, remaining courteous but also able to act firmly when disputes arise.[7]


The Judge will also need to display a very strong work ethic. This includes the self-management skills of being punctual, well-prepared, and organized prior to courtroom proceedings. An unorganized, late judge is disruptive to the entire court proceedings and will not command the respect required of a proper legal system.[9]


Finally, the judge needs to possess exceptional interpersonal skills. Being a representative of the law, the judge must uphold the highest standards of moral courage and ethics. Honesty, integrity, and fairness are absolutely critical to the role of the judge as an unbiased decision-maker. Such interpersonal skills may also include patience, compassion, and confidence.[9]

[edit] Relevance of Psychology Undergraduate Degree

There are several ways in which a psychology degree will be relevant to the career of a criminal court judge. Firstly, applied social psychology courses take an in-depth examination of how the personal characteristics of a defendant or the situational characteristics of a courtroom influence decisions made by the judge and juries. For instance in regards to inadmissible evidence, research has shown that juries will still consider such evidence in their decision despite being told not to by a judge. Being aware of this as a judge is critical for making sure the juries do as they are instructed.


Secondly, forensic psychology courses examine how psychology and the law interact. For instance, research has shown that eyewitness testimony can be dangerously unreliable depending on the methods used to elicit the story. The misinformation acceptance hypothesis states that eyewitnesses may give incorrect information because they guess what the interviewer wants to hear. As a judge who must discern the evidence carefully for truthfulness, knowing the risk of eyewitness testimony is crucial.


Finally, a course on Violent Predators provides ample examination into the concept of risk assessment. A judge will ultimately have to give a verdict and impose a penalty on offenders. Knowing which offenders are more likely to reoffend (such as psychopaths) and which are less likely can give the judge the knowledge he/she needs to exercise proper justice. Additionally, knowing the specific research and validity of tests such as the Violent Risk Assessment Guide (VRAG) also gives the judge the knowledge needed to consider the strongest pieces of evidence.

[edit] Salary Potential

The salary of a criminal court judge can vary wildly for several reasons. Firstly, salaries differ based on the tier of the court. For example, a judge residing at the top of the Supreme Court of Canada will earn much more than a Judge in the Provincial Court of Ontario. Secondly, because the position of a judge is expected to be independent from the government (to prevent monetary concerns from biasing or influencing decision making), federally appointed judges are legislated a specific salary adjusted annually on the basis of the lesser of the percentage change in Statistics Canada's Industrial Aggregate Index or 7%. Particular provinces and territories may be legislated to receive different salaries than others. The adequacies of these salaries are reviewed every 4 years.[10]


With that in mind, Judges in the lower (provincial) courts may make roughly $174,868.00 a year.[11], whereas the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is currently legislated to receive a salary of $386,700.00 a year.[10]

[edit] Job Outlook

Based on current statistics, there appears to be a demand, albeit a weak one, for judges primarily because of a need for new workers to replace those retiring, however this worker shortage is relatively small. There are two reasons for this; judges on average are older than the average worker, but this is offset by the fact that they retire much later. Additionally, because of the extensive educational requirements, the labour pool is relatively small as well.[12]


[edit] To Know More

http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/[13]

http://www.fja.gc.ca/appointments-nominations/considerations-eng.html#Remuneration[10]

http://www.cscja-acjcs.ca/role_of_judge-en.asp?l=5[1]

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Role of the Judge. (2006). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.cscja-acjcs.ca/role_of_judge-en.asp?l=5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Walton, W. (n.d.). A Day In The Life Of Judge Walton. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.judgewalton.com/day.html
  3. Reed, S. (2009, June 18). How Does a Judge Spend a Workday. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.lawcrossing.com/article/5193/How-Does-a-Judge-Spend-a-Workday/
  4. Become a Judge: Education Requirements and Career Roadmap. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://education-portal.com/become_a_judge.html
  5. Tattrie, J. (2011, December 8). How to become a judge in Canada | Career Bear. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://careerbear.com/judge/article/how-to-become-a-judge-in-canada
  6. How to become a Judge in Ontario. (2011, May 31). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.torontoinjurylawyerblog.com/2011/05/how-to-become-a-judge-in-ontario.html
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Qualities Required of a Judge. (2006). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.cscja-acjcs.ca/qualities_required-en.asp?l=5
  8. Ontario Law School Links. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.ouac.on.ca/olsas/olsas-schools/
  9. 9.0 9.1 Appointments Process. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/jpaac/skills/
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Considerations Which Apply to an Application for Appointment. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.fja.gc.ca/appointments-nominations/considerations-eng.html#Remuneration
  11. Judges. (2013, September 3). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/qc/job_futures/statistics/4111.shtml
  12. Explore Careers - Job Market Report. (2013, December 23). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/report-eng.do?area=0065&lang=eng&noc=4111&action=final&ln=n&s=2
  13. Ontario Court of Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/
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