How do judges decide disputes?

How do judges decide disputes?

The judge has many roles. According to the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates: “Four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.”

The judge oversees the proceedings, keeping order in the courtroom and ensuring the case runs smoothly. Sometimes the judge takes on the role of an umpire, resolving disputes that arise over the law and how a case should proceed. The judge decides whether evidence is relevant to the issues before the court and, if it is not, will prevent it from being used. Except for the limited number of trials heard by juries(Jury system abolished in India), the judge must assess the facts presented, apply the law to those facts, decide who is responsible, and then determine what relief, punishment or other action is appropriate.

What do we expect judges to do before making up their minds?

We expect the judge to be competent and knowledgeable in the laws that govern citizens of a country. We expect the judge to listen to both sides and give each side the chance to speak, but enforce the rules so that people don’t all speak at once. And we expect the judge to enforce time limits because the case cannot go on forever.

Do we expect the judge to be respectful and polite? Do we expect the judge to be fair and, if so, what does “fair” mean? On what basis and what facts do we expect the judge to decide the disagreement: is it only upon the evidence put before the judge by the parties, or can the judge look elsewhere for evidence and assistance? Who ultimately decides? Is it just the judge or can the judge go elsewhere for help in deciding? What are the qualities required to be a judge?

By asking these questions, we get closer to a proper understanding of “judicial independence.” It means that judges are:

 Free, but obliged to decide on their own;

 Free from fear or favour; and

 Independent from any and all forms of coercion, threat or harassment direct or indirect, whether from government, politicians, persons in authority, relatives, neighbours, interested parties, fellow judges, chief justices, judicial bodies or organizations or any other source of improper influence whatsoever.

By insisting upon such barriers, both in perception and in fact, we seek to protect the judge, as the decision maker, from any improper influence. Why? So that the decision will be based and only based upon the law as it applies to the evidence presented and properly admitted so as to do justice between the parties.

Source: Canadian Judicial Council-2016

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