The demeanor exhibited by a judge is a key element in criminal proceedings, especially in direct interactions with the defendant, defense representatives, and prosecutors. The judicial demeanor(s) displayed must meet the normative confines of the judicial role—primarily impartiality—within the practical constraints of long case lists, when interactions are subject to considerable time pressure.

Drawing on findings from an extensive national court observation study, this article examines the varied demeanors displayed by magistrates—the presiding judicial officers—in Australia's lower courts. It explores the complex meanings of these demeanors, and considers how they may enhance or undermine the legitimacy of judicial authority.