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A judge or justice is an appointed or elected official who presides over a court. The powers, functions, and training of judges varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the United States, judges are not trained separately from lawyers and are generally appointed or elected from among practicing attorneys. In most civil law jurisdictions judges go to special schools to be trained after graduating with a legal degree from a university, after such training they become investigative judges, see inquisitorial system. In common law countries judges usually operate according to the adversarial system of justice under the local rules of civil procedure.

In most cases where there is a jury, the judge decides questions or issues of law, i.e. which law applies and how it applies, while the jury decides facts, i.e who did it, who is guilty, what is the quantum of damages. However, historically in Europe in the middle ages, juries often stated the law by consensus or majority and the judge applied it to the facts as he saw them.

Being a judge is a very prestidgeous position in society, and as a result has a variety of solem traditions associated with the occupation. In most nations of the world judges wear long robes, usually black or red, and sit at a high, elevated platform during trials. In some countries, notably Britain judges also wear long wigs and use special gavels to instill order in the courtroom.

The judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the judges of the supreme courts of several U. S. states and other countries are called "justices." In the United Kingdom, a comparable rank is held by the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords; its judges are not called judges, but "Law Lords", and sit in the House of Lords as peers. The justices of the supreme courts definitely hold higher offices than the justice of the peace, a judge who holds police court in some jurisdictions and who typically tries small claims[?] and misdemeanors.

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