Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Recorder Definition:

An ancient judicial position in the legal history of England and Wales, now mostly a part-time judicial appointment given to practising barristers or solicitors in England and Wales.

An ancient judicial position in the legal history of England and Wales, a part-time judicial appointment given to practising barristers or solicitors.

The following is form an 1816 English law dictionary:

"Recorder: Is a person whom the mayor and other magistrates of any city or town corporate (having jurisdiction, and a court of record within their precincts), by the King's grant, associate onto them for their better direction in matters of justice, and proceedings according to law. Therefore he is generally a barrister or some other person experienced in the law."1

Traditionally, a recorder would perform administrative and judicial functions such as record-keeping and the endorsement of search warrants or warrants for the arrest of particular individuals. He might also exercise functions equivalent to those of a sitting judge in every city or district.

He (or now, she) would typically cede his authority to a formal judicial officer such as a judge of a formal court upon the arrival of such a judge within their district for the purposes of presiding over the more serious judicial proceedings, which would have been adjourned over for that purpose. Still, recorders were entitled to sit with any roving official judge on trials occurring within their jurisdiction but mostly as was an observor only.

The best known recorder has always been the Recorder of London.

More recently, in 1971, recorders are part-time judicial positions given to barristers and solicitors to conduct an officiate over minor judicial functions.

The 2006 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Law:

"Recorder: A barrister or solicitor appointed as a part-time judge. Recorders agreed to make themselves available regularly ... for at least four weeks a year. Recorders usually sit in the Crown Court but may sit in the county courts or the High Court."

In jurisdictions which carried over the English common law, the traditional position of recorder is often exercised by official court officers known as magistrates or a justice of the peace.


  • Martin, E. and Law, J., A Dictionary of Law, 6th Ed. (Oxford; University Press, 2006), page 444.
  • Williams, Thomas Walter, A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating the Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity (London: Gale and Fenner, 1816) [NOTE 1].

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