Magistrates & Judges

The Powers of Judges & Magistrates

In North Carolina, superior court judges, district court judges, and magistrates have the power to:

Serve as the Referee of the Courtroom

In North Carolina, judges have the responsibility to:

  • Ensure proceedings remain fair to both sides
  • Remain impartial throughout the trial
  • Be independent, and not have their judgement clouded by personal predispositions or external pressure
  • Prevent lawyers from presenting problematic evidence or coerced confessions
  • Enforce rules of discovery so that both plaintiffs and defendants can properly examine and respond to evidence

Have the Power to End Cash Bail

In North Carolina, the law actually requires that judges not automatically set cash bail. In every case, judges have the discretionary power to:

  • Determine if and how much bail someone must pay in order to be released from jail
  • Use other options of releasing someone, including a written promise to appear, an unsecured bond (defendants only pay if they don’t appear in court), or other non-monetary pretrial release options where available.

Because of the practice of setting cash bail, many people who have not been convicted of a crime sit in jail because they cannot afford to pay bail. 

Eliminate Racial Disparities

The United States Sentencing Commission reported in 2017 that nationwide, Black men received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated white men. North Carolina has a long-standing history of sentencing disparities that punish Black and Brown people more harshly than their white counterparts for similar offenses.

Judges can use their power to address this by engaging in fair and equitable sentencing practices that ensure Black and Brown people are not punished more harshly than whites.

In North Carolina, judges and magistrates often don’t look like the people they serve. With your vote, you have the power to elect judges that are representative of the people who live in your community.

  • North Carolina ranks 38th in the nation for the number of judges who are women
  • North Carolina ranks 22nd in the nation for the number of ethnic and minority judges
  • 66% of all judges in North Carolina are white men

Find Your Local Judges

The NC Judicial Branch maintains a resource page where you can find out which judicial district you are in to learn more about local judges.

Inform Your Vote

With your vote, YOU have the power to elect a county sheriff that will create the kind of justice system that is better for your community.