Difference between Commissioner and Judge?

California Superior Court
Trial can be heard either by a Judge or a Commisioner - at lease in Unlawful Detainer cases
What is the difference between the two?

A commissioner is an attorney hired by the court to perform subordinate judicial duties. Upon stipulation of the parties, a commissioner can perform the functions of a judge. (California Constitution, Article VI, sections 21, 22.) The Legislature has empowered commissioners to hear trials in infraction matters, and small claims actions (Government Code section 72190), to conduct criminal arraignments (Government Code section 72190.1), and to hear paternity and child support matters unless there is an objection (Code of Civil Procedure section 259; Family Code section 4251).

A commissioner can also hear any uncontested action or proceeding. (Code Civ.Proc. sec. 259, subd. (g).) Unlawful detainer actions are often uncontested. However, if the action were to be contested, a commissioner could preside over the hearing only upon the stipulation of the parties.
Commissioners have far fewer powers. Commissioners can hear motions, hear and rule on paternity and child support cases, and, with approval of the litigants, hear cases like a regular judge, among other things. For the purposes of an unlawful detainer case, there's not much difference between having a judge or commissioner.

It's all in Code of Civil Procedure, section 259.

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