Type of organization
Grand Hall of Justice
2000 AD #2 (5 March, 1977)
Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog
Judge (or street judge) is a title held by several significant characters in Judge Dredd and other series which appear in the British comics 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. In the fictional future history of the series, the role of "Judge" combines those of judge and police officer, thus avoiding long legal wrangles by allowing for criminals to be tried and sentenced on the spot. Since they overthrew the U.S. Constitution in 2070, Judges have also held supreme political power in Mega-City One. Collectively they are known as the Justice Department.
In the comic strip, Judges are the product of many years' training and psychological conditioning. Training, which takes place in the Academy of Law, generally begins at age five. The Judges recruit promising children, and grow their own clones. Judge Dredd is himself a clone of the Judges' founder, Chief Judge Fargo.
The Judges themselves are not above the law – a violation that would earn a citizen a few months in an Iso[lation]-Cube earns a Judge a twenty-year sentence of hard labor on Saturn's moon, Titan, after surgical modification to enable the convict to survive Titan's atmosphere.
For most of the strip's history, the Judges are led by a Chief Judge and a Council of Five. The Judges have their own domestic intelligence division (the Public Surveillance Unit), and their own medical facilities. There are a number of specialist divisions within the Judges, notably Psi Division, which consists of psychic judges used to predict the future and read minds, and Tek Division, made of forensic scientists and engineers. The SJS (Special Judicial Squad) monitor and police the Judges internally.
In the Judge Dredd future history, the Judge System originated in the United States (see History of Mega-City One), but spread around the world. In most of these nations the Judges control all aspects of the government; but differ in customs: the Judges of Ireland, for example, are allowed to drink and smoke, or be married, whereas MC-1 Judges have virtually no private life. Corruption is endemic amongst the Judges of Brit-Cit, and bribery is often essential to progress through the ranks.
Notable Judges appearing in the series include Judge Anderson (of Psi Division), Judge Hershey, Judge Kraken, Judge Giant, and the eponymous Judge Dredd.
Within the Mega-City One legal system there are numerous bodies and divisions who have specialised tasks:
In 2134, there was an across-the-board divisional merger, creating:
Before becoming fully fledged street judges, cadet judges usually must spend 15 years (or, exceptionally, 13 years) at the Academy of Law, where they receive intensive training and conditioning.
A cadet is inducted into the Academy either as a cloned infant (as does Judge Dredd), or as a child aged five (although older children have been recruited). After this, unsupervised contact with the city outside is forbidden, in order to maintain the strictest discipline and mental conditioning.
Cadet Judges must leave both the Academy and the city itself during their "Hotdog Run": a training mission into the Cursed Earth, to test the cadets under combat conditions; fatalities are not unknown. A senior Judge will command and assess the cadets during the Hotdog Run.
On graduating from the Academy, cadets become known as rookie judges. A rookie's uniform is similar to that of a full judge, with two differences: the helmet is white rather than black and red, and the badge consists of only one half of a full judge's badge and does not show the rookie's name (this design is sometimes varied by artists; see illustration, right). (Note however that some artists have wrongly depicted cadets in rookies' uniforms, and rookies in full judges' uniforms).
Before becoming a full judge, a rookie must undergo assessment by a more experienced Senior Judge. The failure rate is extremely high, and the few who pass their Final Assessment exchange their white helmet and "half-eagle" for the black and red helmet and "full eagle" at a brief ceremony before the chief judge.
Notable characters seen taking their final assessments are the original Judge Giant, the other Judge Giant, Judge Rico, Judge Kraken, and Dredd himself (in flashbacks). The film Dredd depicts Judge Anderson's final assessment.
Cadets who fail to graduate are expelled from the Academy. Rookies who fail their final assessment earlier had no right of appeal, but this is no longer the case. Failed cadets and rookies are either employed as auxiliaries or leave the Justice Department altogether.
Ever since the Day Of Chaos storyline, the department has taken on retrainees; judges transferred from other megacities to bolster their ranks.
When a street judge retires from service at the end of his career, he may choose to take the "Long Walk," leaving Mega-City One for exile outside its borders. He may do this either in the Cursed Earth, a radioactive desert outside the city walls, or in the Undercity, the ruins of New York that lie beneath the mega-city. The Long Walk begins with a brief ceremony at the city gates, wherein the retiring judge walks through an honour guard of judges as they discharge their firearms into the air, while another judge formally bids him farewell. Judges who take the Long Walk are expected never to return, but to die "bringing law to the lawless."
Retiring judges may also be placed in administrative or teaching posts instead of taking the Long Walk. Others may simply leave and voluntarily become ordinary citizens, having grown tired of the strict life of a judge, although such cases are rare. However, the Long Walk is often chosen by judges who have been subject to disciplinary proceedings for misconduct not warranting criminal prosecution. Despite their effective exile, Cursed Earth judges can be called up by active street judges on missions in the Cursed Earth for assistance, once they have discharged their duties to the city, the retired judge is still forbidden from returning to Mega City One.
Cursed Earth judges are essentially vigilantes. Although they are expected to uphold the same standards of behavior as street judges, they receive no supervision or support from the city. As such, some of them openly flout the code of practice that street judges must obey- drinking, smoking, or breaking celibacy for example. Also, due to the inevitable wear and tear of their equipment, coupled with their inability to obtain replacements, Cursed Earth judges who have been operating for years may have been forced to discard their uniform and possibly even their lawgiver, making them all but unrecognisbale as judges. Cursed Earth judges also act as traveling magistrates, holding makeshift small-claims courts in the various settlements around the wasteland; for these, the arrival of a judge is a rare and exciting event, akin to a carnival, and therefore, along with legitimate grievances, some villagers file frivolous or ridiculous cases for entertainment value.
Two unprecedented exceptions to the normally inflexible rule that judges who take the Long Walk do not return from it were Chief Judge McGruder and Judge Dredd himself:
The Judge System was created by Eustace Fargo, special government prosecutor for street crime, between 2027 and 2031, to combat a rising tide of violent crime and to speed up the process of justice. While there was heavy protest in Congress over the idea of abandoning due process, the electorate was in favour and President Gurney (who supported Fargo's plan) was re-elected with a massive majority. The original uniforms heavily resembled that of normal American police officers, albeit with helmets and heavy body armour, and rode Lawranger motorcycles.
Following the Third World War of 2070 and discovering that President Booth had stolen the election, the Judges invoked the "oldest law of them all" overthrowing the Government of the United States and seizing power, with popular support, and the chief judge became the country's ruler. The Judicial model has subsequently spread throughout the globe becoming the most common form of government on Earth by the 22nd century.
Every Mega-City seen is policed and run (either completely or partially) by a Judge system, which more or less resembles that of Mega-City One. Variations exist on the uniforms and overall system of government:
Places that lack a Judge force include the Mediterranean Free State, Mongolian Exclusion Zone, Canadia (Canada), and the Web (Borneo and Indonesian islands). In some cases, this is a deliberate choice; in others, such as the Web, it is because they cannot afford it.
The foreign Judge stories and spin-off strips have been criticised for relying too much on foreign stereotypes and clichés – Egypt's Judges are based on Ancient Egyptians, the South American Judges are corrupt and incompetent and speak in exaggerated accents, Japanese Judges are samurai figures, etc. Dredd writer Gordon Rennie once wrote a list of foreign stereotypes used in 2000 AD and said "follow them closely, and you're probably in with a chance of pitching a Foreign Judge story to the Megazine circa 1993".
The Dark Judges are undead creatures from an alternative reality ("Deadworld"), who argue that because all crime is committed by the living, life is a crime and the punishment is death. Their leader, Judge Death, is Judge Dredd's arch-enemy.
Before its extermination, Deadworld was ruled by a murderous and corrupt Judge force; their uniforms were a grey, black, and dark-red variation of Mega-City One's, with pterodactyls in place of eagles as decoration. There does not appear to have been an Atomic War in this world, as the cities shown resembled run-down 20th Century cities rather than the Mega-Cities. The Dark Judges took control of this Judge force and used it to assist them in their global genocide before disposing of it.
- Judge Fargo
- Judge Solomon
- Judge Goodman
- Judge Cal
- Judge Griffin
- Judge McGruder
- Judge Silver
- Judge McGruder (second term)
- Judge Volt
- Judge Hershey
- Judge Francisco
- Judge Sinfield (acting chief judge)
- Judge Francisco (second term)
- Judge Hershey (second term)