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Becoming a judge in North Carolina requires applicants to be state residents, at least 21 years old and registered to vote. The State Board of Elections doesn't have any education or experience requirements for judges. Instead, it's up to the public to choose the candidate they deem most fit to fill these positions. Typically, elected judges are highly educated in law and thoroughly experienced in the judicial system.
Master the Basics
Work towards a degree in a major related to law, such as criminal justice or pre-law studies. The College Foundation of North Carolina notes that judgeship candidates typically have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and associated work experience. Judges may initially gain experience in magistrate positions, where they handle small crimes and preliminary hearings for criminal cases. The North Carolina Magistrates Association reports that applicants for magistrate roles must have a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree and four years of work experience.
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Gain relevant experience by applying to work for the Office of Magistrates in your county. The Resident Superior Court Judge in each district selects qualified applicants to serve as magistrates for two years. New hires are directed to complete the North Carolina Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation program online, which covers key topics from policies to payroll and benefits. Unless you're advancing in the judicial system, you should try to remain a magistrate until you're ready to apply for a judgeship. To serve beyond the initial two-year term, you must take the Institute of Government's Basic Training for Magistrates course. Additionally, you'll be required to fulfill continuing education requirements each term.
Rally Your Supporters
Once you're experienced, confident and ready to campaign, apply to get your name on the primary election ballot. Submit a certificate of verification detailing your residency, right to vote and party affiliation to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, in addition to a notice of candidacy and the filing fee for the position you're seeking. In 2014, filing fees ranged from $1,107 to $1,426 depending on the level judgeship you seek. According to NCSBE, the nonpartisan primary is usually held in May and narrows the choices down to two candidates for the general election in November. During that time, give speeches at political events to show the public why they should vote for you while your supporters hand out buttons or signs to spread awareness.
Secure Your Future
The North Carolina Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation states that immediately after judges are elected, they must fill out a Biographical Data Sheet, which asks for information similar to that found on employment applications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers in North Carolina made an average of $93,270 per year, as of May 2013. Judges may serve for a limited period of time, typically between four and eight years, or they may have lifetime positions, depending on their exact role. Due to term limits and retirement, the employment of judges is expected to remain steady.
- North Carolina State Board of Elections: Fact Sheet: Running for Judicial Offices 2014 Election
- College Foundation of North Carolina: Judge/Magistrate: What To Learn
- The North Carolina Court System: Careers
- The North Carolina Court System: Welcome to the North Carolina Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation
- The North Carolina Court System: NC Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation: Magistrate Continuing Legal Education
- The North Carolina Court System: NC Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation: Biographical Data Sheet
- The North Carolina Court System: NC Judicial Branch New Employee Orientation: The Three Branches of Government
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: North Carolina
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