That is an excellent question.  Many people wonder what the difference in these two roles is because both judges and magistrates hear cases in court. We can only speak generally about this topic, as the specifics vary between states and regions.  In general:

  1. Comparatively, judges have much larger amounts of power than magistrates. Magistrates have fewer and more limited powers than judges.
  2. They can hear different types of cases.  Judges generally hear larger, more complex cases while magistrates hear smaller matters such as petty crime and traffic offenses.
  3. Judges and magistrates have different jurisdictional powers.  Judges can preside over a large area, sometimes the entire country.  Magistrates have a smaller area of jurisdiction such as a city or county.
  4. There is a difference between the power given to a judge over a magistrate.  Judges generally have great authority over matters, where a magistrate would be given a more narrow scope of authority.  For example, only a judge can render a final judgment in a case, a magistrate cannot make a final ruling.
  5. Ohio Judges are elected for a set term, magistrates are appointed by the judge and serve at their pleasure.  The same applies to pay structure, the judge’s earnings are set by law, and the magistrate’s earnings are set by the judge.

To learn more about the roles of both judges and magistrates you can visit the OSBA website, or the Ohio Magistrates website.