Judge, Magistrate, or Commissioner…What’s the Difference?

February 01, 2015

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Most everyone commonly understands what a trial court judge is and what their responsibilities are in the justice system. Hoosiers also generally understand trial court judges in Indiana are elected. However, less understood is the role that a magistrate or a commissioner plays in our system.

A magistrate is not elected, but effectively has the authority of a judge. He or she may do any number of tasks including administer an oath, solemnize a marriage, compel the attendance of a witness, set bail, conduct a hearing or trial, and impose a sentence in addition to other tasks. I.C. 33-23-5-5. They are typically full-time judicial employees, are entitled to 80% of the salary of a judge, and are paid for by the State of Indiana. I.C. 33-23-5-10. A commissioner is, essentially, a magistrate who has all the powers and responsibilities of a magistrate. I.C. 33-33-49-15 (noting that a commissioner appointed under this chapter has all of the powers and responsibilities outlined for a magistrate). However, the salary of a commissioner is paid for by the County and is not the responsibility of the State. Id. Generally, commissioners are utilized primarily in larger metropolitan areas, like Indianapolis, because of the volume of cases that the system has to accommodate on a daily and weekly basis. While there are some differences, Judges, Magistrates, and Commissioners have essentially the same responsibilities and duties.

Contact us today if you have questions or concerns regarding a case that you are or may be involved in. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.