Formal and Informal Requirements of Judges



Formal requirements vary among the states, although many states do not have strict minimum requirements. Neither the U.S. Constitution nor any federal statute set forth formal qualifications for federal judges. However, other factors may determine who will earn a seat on a federal bench. Although federal law does not require a federal judge to be an attorney, the vast majority of judges have distinguished themselves professionally as lawyers. This becomes even more important at the intermediate appellate court and Supreme Court levels.

Moreover, though certainly not a requirement, judges generally need some record of political activity for two main reasons. First, the prospective judge’s service in politics may be rewarded through an appointment to the federal bench. Second, a judge generally needs to have some level of political activity to become noticed by those who select judges in the federal system.