Magistrate Judge Information and Career Opportunities
What is a United States Magistrate Judge?
Magistrate judges are judicial officers of the United States district courts who are appointed by district judges to handle a variety of judicial proceedings. They have authority to issue warrants, conduct preliminary proceedings in criminal cases (such as initial appearances and arraignments), and hear cases involving petty offenses committed on federal lands. In most districts, magistrate judges handle pretrial motions and hearings in civil and criminal cases and preside over trials in non-felony cases. Magistrate judges may also preside over all motions and civil trials with consent of the parties.
CAND Video: Demystifying the Magistrate Judge Application Process
The Northern District of California was one of the first federal trial courts in the country to assign a wide range of civil cases directly to magistrate judges upon filing. As a consequence, the magistrate judges of our district have direct experience with nearly all types of civil matters filed in our court. Many magistrate judges in our district are active in law school teaching and continuing legal education for attorneys. Many have been appointed to important committees within the circuit and national governing bodies, and all are active in local court governance.
More information on the history, work, and authority of magistrate judges is available at the following resources:
- A Guide to the Legislative History of the Federal Magistrate Judges System (pdf)
- Inventory of United States Magistrate Judge Duties (pdf)
- Federal Judicial Center Information on Magistrate Judgeships
What are the required qualifications to become a United States Magistrate Judge?
By federal statute, magistrate judges must meet specified eligibility criteria, including at least five years as a member in good standing of a state or territory’s highest court bar. 28 U.S.C § 631. Magistrate judges also must meet additional minimum qualifications promulgated by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Prior to appointment, applicants are vetted by a merit selection panel that consists of lawyers and non-lawyers within the district. By majority vote of the court’s district judges, magistrate judges are appointed for a renewable term of eight years. The magistrate judges on our court have come from a wide variety of backgrounds and practices.
How do I apply to become a United States Magistrate Judge?
Current vacancies at the Northern District of California are listed below. The court is an equal opportunity employer and encourages a wide and diverse range of applicants to apply.
Magistrate Judge Profiles
Profiles of current Northern District of California magistrate judges can be found on the court’s publication, Consenting to the Jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge. In addition, many former magistrate judges of this court have had very successful post-bench careers in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), private practice, and other legal arenas. The profiles linked below (non-court websites) offer a sampling of how some magistrate judges have continued their careers following their service on the court.
- Hon. Wayne D. Brazil (Ret.)
- Hon. Paul Grewal (Ret.)
- Hon. Maria-Elena James (Ret.)
- Hon. James Larson (Ret.)
- Hon. Elizabeth Laporte (Ret.)
- Hon. Nandor Vadas (Ret.)
- Hon. Bernard Zimmerman (Ret.)
Qualified applicants meeting magistrate judge eligibility requirements may communicate with a former magistrate judge about the job or application process. You may direct your inquiry to a specific former magistrate judge if desired.
Additional Information and Resources
Video: Magistrate Judges – Serving the Judiciary and the Public
Video: Magistrate Judges – The Merit Selection and Reappointment Process
Videos: Pathways to the Bench – United States Magistrate Judges (uscourts.gov)