WHAT IS A MAGISTRATE?
Updated: Jan 4
Understanding the difference between a Magistrate and a Judge
Florida judges are busy people, with lots of cases to work on, so they sometimes use magistrates to help with their workload. Magistrates are judges too, but they have limited power. A magistrate wears black robes and presides over hearings just like a judge. The evidence rules are the same and magistrates follow the same law as judges.
For all practical purposes, a magistrate is just like a judge except that a magistrate cannot issue a final decision.
A magistrate issues a report and recommendation on how the judge should decide the case. Then the parties have the chance to object to anything in the report. Finally, the judge reviews the report and decides whether to adopt it as written or to revise it.
Magistrates are used with consent of the parties, so it’s helpful to consider the advantages and
disadvantages of consenting. Using magistrates allows cases to move more quickly through the
court system. Getting a hearing scheduled with a magistrate is usually easier that trying to get
one with a judge. And because magistrates usually deal with one subject matter (like traffic or
child support), they are very knowledgeable on the law. Generally, there’s no disadvantage to
having a magistrate hear your case, so unless you have had a bad experience with a particular
magistrate or the magistrate has a bad reputation, there’s no reason not to consent.