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Judicial Advice

December 25, 2017

So what qualifications do you have to have to be a judge? Are there any? It seems there ought to be some qualifications, but apparently, it’s not clear what they are.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

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So what qualifications do you have to have to be a judge? Are there any? It seems there ought to be some qualifications, but apparently, it’s not clear what they are.

Last week a federal judge was quoted in The New York Times as saying there is “a continuing debate within the legal profession about the qualifications required of a trial judge.”

There is?

I couldn’t find much evidence of this debate. At least I couldn’t after an exhaustive five minutes or so on Google. It seemed — at least before the current crop of federal bench appointments — that the basic requirement was knowing something about law.

But how important is that? It’s the lawyers on each side who have to come up with all the legal arguments. All the judge has do is read their stuff and pick a winner. (Well, actually, he or she doesn’t even have to read the filings — no one will know.)

Be that as it may, there are certain politicians and pundits insisting that these judicial nominees need to understand basic legal principles or know what a courtroom looks like.

Picky, picky, picky.

Fortunately for judicial hopefuls, what I was able to find in my five Google minutes is a lot of good advice for getting a job as a judge. Judging, after all, is a pretty secure profession, so anyone currently unemployed should look into this.

Learn.org, for example, provides a five-step formula for becoming a judge. It starts with “obtain an undergraduate degree” and the most critical advice is step four: “become appointed or elected to the court.”

Why didn’t I think of that?

For more detailed career advice, wikiHow.com offers a more detailed road map that begins with “if you’re in high school, focus on getting a good score on your college entrance exams.”

You should also get a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university and, later, complete law school.

I don’t know, that seems a bit complicated and time-consuming to me, but you can decide for yourself whether all of that is worth it.

The best part of the WikiHow page, though, comes in the questions section at the bottom of the web page. Go there first. The first question is: “Why should I do this I don’t want to be a judge?” (sic)

There is a response from the article author, but I don’t think it’s the correct one. What he should have said was, “Good. We don’t want you to be a judge either.”

I recommend coming up with your own answers to all the questions that appear here. For example, the second question is: “I’m 12 years old. How do I prepare to become a judge?”

Better answer: “Wear a black robe to school and use your gavel on anyone who laughs at you.”

Real question: “How do I become a judge if I am currently a medical student?”

Actually, I can’t top the real answer, which ends with: “You could also become close friends with the president or a governor and befriend many senators.”

That’s the path to the Supreme Court.

There’s also chron.com, which notes that “the U.S. Constitution guides the process for confirming a federal judge, but does not specify qualifications.”

The Constitution doesn’t seem to specify qualifications for much of anything else, either.

The chron.com page, by the way, qualifies for our collection of odd web page illustrations. To wit:

I think what they’re trying to tell us is that all a judge needs is a mouth, not a brain.

If you want a mystery to explore, consider the advice on study.com that comes under the headline: “Should I Become a Judge?” and then ignores the question.

It may be because the answer is almost always no.

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