Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary
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- 1) In the U.S., a generic term for a court judge. 2) In a few U.S. states, a justice of the peace or other lower-level officer of the court, with limited power to hear certain types of cases, such as small claims lawsuits or minor crimes, or to conduct particular types of proceedings, such as preliminary hearings. 3) In U.S. federal district courts, a magistrate judge is an official who conducts routine hearings assigned by the federal judges, including preliminary hearings in criminal cases.