Judicial Office Holders

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The senior judicial office holders in Scotland are those who sit in the supreme civil court, the Court of Session, and the supreme criminal court, the High Court of Justiciary. They are appointed as Senators of the College of Justice and deal with the most serious cases.  When sitting in the Court of Session they are know as Lords of Council and Session and when sitting in the High Court of Justiciary are known as Lords Commissioners of Justiciary. There are also some temporary judges who carry out the same work on a part-time basis.

Scotland’s sheriffs and summary sheriffs deal with the vast majority of civil and criminal cases at first instance. There are six sheriffdoms, each with its own sheriff principal. Sheriffs principal are mostly Queen’s Counsel and sheriffs are either advocates or solicitors though many are also Queen's Counsel.  All will have had considerable court experience. To assist with increasing workloads and the pressure of court business, some advocates and solicitors are appointed to sit as part-time sheriffs.

Since 2008, Justice of the Peace courts have been rolled out to replace district courts. In JP courts, lay justices of the peace sit with a legally qualified clerk, who gives advice on law and procedure. JPs deal with minor criminal matters.

Other judicial office holders include the chairman of the Scottish Land Court, which deals with cases relating to property held under crofting law or agricultural tenancies, and those presiding in Scotland’s many administrative tribunals.

Click here for information on judicial salaries.

Related FAQs

Q.Do all judges wear robes? Why do judges wear different robes in civil and criminal courts?
Q.Do you have to be a certain age to be a judge?
Q.How do I address a judge in court?
Q.What is the significance of the crosses on judges’ robes?
Q.Who chooses judges?

View all related FAQs

A day in the life of


Judges spend a great deal of time working on cases before and after court and have to do a lot of preparation for the day ahead. Read about a typical day for a judge.