How much does a judge make? This is just one important consideration if you are thinking about entering into the judicial field. It takes a lot of hard work and skill in the legal field to rise to the ranks of a district judge, which is why they are fairly compensated. Below, read about what it takes to become a district judge in North Carolina, as well as the benefits, including a judge's salary.
What Is a District Judge?
A district judge presides over district court cases, both civil and criminal. District courts are part of the federal court system, so they hear federal cases. The United States Attorney's Office decides the districts' boundaries, and U.S. Attorneys serve as the primary prosecutors in these cases.
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District judges hear a large variety of cases. These include family cases, appeals, commitments of the mentally ill, bankruptcy and criminal cases, many of them misdemeanors. There are 94 districts in the United States, and these are further separated into 13 circuits. North Carolina is part of the fourth circuit.
There are three districts in North Carolina: western, middle and eastern. In 2022, there were almost 700 district judges in the United States. There are also 41 state district courts in North Carolina.
How to Become a District Judge in North Carolina
Federal district court judges are appointed by the President of the United States and approved by Congress. Appointing judges is a significant power of the president. State district court judges, however, are elected by the people. Most district judges have law degrees and have served years as lawyers, especially trial lawyers. While possessing a law degree isn't required to become a district judge, it is the best avenue for getting there.
- Earn a Bachelor's Degree: The first step to becoming a district judge in North Carolina (or elsewhere) is attending undergraduate school and earning a bachelor's degree. You can choose from a range of majors, including pre-law, philosophy, political science, sociology or others.
- Gain Initial Experience: You should do whatever you can to distinguish yourself in college and get as much experience as you can in the courts and legal fields through internships or summer jobs.
- Attend Law School: Next, attend law school. Where you study matters, so your goal throughout college should be to get into a top-tier law school. This will both offer you a better education and also the name recognition that comes with going to a top school. You'll also need a high score on the LSAT (law school aptitude test).
- Work for the Courts: After you graduate and pass the bar exam, you can work for the courts or try to get employment as a magistrate. Since district court judges are elected or appointed by other politicians, you'll also need to be involved in politics. Make critical connections with local leaders and distinguish yourself through your work at the same time. District court judges must also be between 21 and 72 years of age and be registered to vote.
District Court Judge Salary NC
According to the University of North Carolina, the average judge salary for North Carolina district judges in 2016 was $111,684. The state general assembly determines the fair pay for judges. Compared to the average salary in NC, which is around $53,000, that pay is excellent.
By the time a person is qualified to become a district court judge, they have likely distinguished themselves through their career as a lawyer. Many of them have significant savings that they can use to supplement their judge salary from the government. They may also make paid speaking appearances to supplement their income.