Federal judge

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
U.S. Federal Courts
General jurisdiction courts
Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. Courts of Appeal
Federal district courts
U.S. territorial courts
Subject-matter jurisdiction
Bankruptcy courts
Court of Federal Claims
Armed Forces
Veterans Claims
Tax Court
International Trade
Intelligence Surveillance
Federal judges
Federal judiciary

Federal judges are judges who serve in a federal court. The term refers both to the Article III federal judges and to Article I federal judges, who serve as magistrate and bankruptcy judges, and in other Article III tribunals.

Federal judges, Article III

Article III federal judges are appointed for life, during "good behavior". They are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution of the United States Constitution.

Article III judges, besides serving in the Supreme Court of the United States also serve in:

Justices and judges of these courts exercise what Article III calls "the judicial power of the United States."

Article III, Section I of the U.S. Constitution states:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.[1][2]

Federal judges, Article I

There are additional federal judges who were not appointed under Article III. These judges serve in Article I tribunals and they do not have the same protections as Article III judges:

  • They do not have life tenure.
  • Their salaries may be reduced by Congress.

Article I courts include:

Senior judges

Main article: Federal judges on senior status

Senior judges are retired judges who, if they and their colleagues wish, may continue to hear cases and earn their full salary.

Federal judges are eligible for senior status at the following ages:

Age Years of
65 15
66 14
67 13
68 12
69 11
70 10

Federal judges who have not retired and who maintain a full caseload are sometimes referred to as "active judges" to distinguish them from the senior judges.

Process of becoming a federal judge

Federal judges are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. There are multiple steps to the process:

  • The President nominates a candidate for a judicial seat.
  • The candidate fills out a questionnaire and is reviewed the by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing with the candidate, questioning them about such things as their judicial philosophy, past rulings or opinions, etc.
  • After the hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to approve or return the candidate.
  • If the Committee votes to return the candidate to the President, the President has the opportunity to re-nominate the candidate.
  • If approved, the nominee is voted on by the full Senate.
  • If the Senate does not confirm the nomination, that candidate will not receive a judgeship at that time.
  • If the Senate confirms the nomination, the candidate receives a commission to serve a lifelong position as a federal judge.

Number of federal judges

The number of federal judicial positions is set by the United States Congress, which authorizes a set number of judge positions for each level of the courts and makes adjustments as necessary.[4][5]

Article III

Article I


There are almost no formal qualifications for federal judges. Article I magistrate and bankruptcy judges are required by statute to be lawyers, but there is no such requirement for district judges, circuit judges, or Supreme Court justices.

See also

External links