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magistrate

n. 1) a generic term for any judge of a court, or anyone officially performing a judge's functions. 2) in a few states, an officer of the court at the lowest level who hears small claims lawsuits, serves as a judge for charges of minor crimes and/or conducts preliminary hearings in criminal cases to determine if there is enough evidence presented by the prosecution to hold the accused for trial. 3) in federal courts, an official who conducts routine hearings assigned by the federal judges, including preliminary hearings in criminal cases.

See also: judge  justice of the peace  preliminary hearing 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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