Chief Judge of Mega-City One

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File:Chief Judge Fargo.jpg
Chief Judge Fargo (drawn by Brendan McCarthy)

Chief Judge of Mega-City One is the title of several supporting characters in the Judge Dredd comic strip published in 2000 AD. The chief judge is dictator and head of state of Mega-City One, a fictional future city of around 400 million people in 22nd-century America. The present chief judge (as of February 2019) is Judge Logan.[1]

Chief Judge is the highest rank in the Mega-City One Justice Department. The founder of the Judge System, Chief Judge Fargo, originally conceived this office as no more than the head of an elite police force whose members had powers to summarily convict and sentence criminals in 21st-century America,[2] but following a coup d'état in 2070 the US Justice Department took control of the United States and formed a new government under the autocratic rule of the chief judge.[3] Since then the chief judges have wielded immense power, although after the coup the USA split into three independent city-states, including Mega-City One (although the three cities had already enjoyed considerable autonomy since 2052).

Other mega-cities around the world adopted similar systems of government, usually with the same "Chief Judge" title or with a similar variation (Supreme Judge in the Soviet cities and Ciudad Barranquilla). The remainder of this article is concerned solely with Judge Dredd's city.

The concept first turned up in the very first Judge Dredd story, where the office was called the Grand Judge.[4] The office was first called "Chief Judge" in 2000 AD prog 34.


Office and powers[edit]

Until 2117 the chief judge was the ex officio chairman of the Council of Five, which in 2070 became the highest legislative body.[5] He presided over the Council's meetings and could veto any decision with which he disagreed.[6] He could also appoint and dismiss councillors at will.[7] The Council usually included a deputy chief judge, who would automatically succeed to the highest office in the event of the death of the chief judge.[8] (This occurred when Chief Judge Goodman died and was succeeded by his deputy, Judge Cal.) If there was no deputy then the remaining members of the Council elected a new chief judge from among themselves.[7] (Judge Silver was chosen in this way.)

Unfortunately, in Mega-City One's history there have been occasions when chief judges have abused their considerable power. When Chief Judge McGruder suspended the Council of Five in 2112 and ruled alone[9] there was no mechanism for legally removing her from office when her mental health deteriorated and her decisions became increasingly erratic.[10] She eventually resigned of her own accord in 2116, but by this time the undesirability of vesting too much authority in one individual had become apparent even to the hardline right-wing Judges of Mega-City One.

Therefore, in 2117 three significant changes were made to the system by her new successor, Chief Judge Volt. Firstly, he reformed the Council of Five by removing the chief judge from the Council[11] (although it is not clear how their respective powers are divided between the chief judge and the Council, and the chief judge may still attend Council meetings). Since then the deputy chief judge has chaired most meetings of the Council of Five (the first to do so was DCJ Herriman.) The appointment of a deputy chief judge must have the consent of the Council.[12] This has given some measure of independence to the Council in its deliberations, and provided a constitutional method by which an incapable chief judge can be lawfully removed from office.

Secondly, the law was changed to make chief judges elected by the 400 Senior Judges of the city, rather than by the Council alone. This innovation had first been introduced ad hoc by McGruder herself in 2116, since there was neither a council nor a deputy chief judge during her term of office.[13] It was unpopular with many judges at the time, but Volt made it a permanent rule.[14] This second reform was deemed necessary because McGruder's own succession to the job in 2112 – without any vote being undertaken – had later been challenged as unconstitutional by her predecessor in that office, Judge Silver, resulting in a constitutional crisis.[15] By making this second reform Volt ensured that future chief judges should not have their authority doubted, while at the same time his first reform made the chief judge accountable in the exercise of that authority.

Thirdly, the deputy chief judge is no longer guaranteed the automatic right of succession to the top job. Under the new system the deputy only becomes acting chief judge in the event of a vacancy in the highest office, and only becomes chief judge in his own right if subsequently elected.[16] This procedure was first invoked when Volt himself died and Deputy Chief Judge Hershey became acting chief judge in 2121, winning the second election to chief judge in 2122. Even this rule only applies to a deputy chief judge who was appointed by an elected chief judge. A deputy chief judge appointed by an unelected chief judge does not become acting chief judge; instead there must be an election.[17][18]

Removal from office[edit]

Until 2117 the only way in which a chief judge could lawfully be removed from office against his will was by a vote of the Council of Five.[19] This never happened, and it became impossible when Chief Judge McGruder suspended the Council.

Since the constitutional reforms, it has also been possible for a candidate to run against a serving chief judge if one third of the city's senior judges sign a petition calling for a recall election. By 2131 the number of senior judges had trebled to around 1,200.[20] In that year, senior judges began a successful campaign to vote reformer Chief Judge Hershey out of office, and replace her with hardliner Judge Francisco.

Francisco himself was removed from office in 2132 by his corrupt deputy, Judge Sinfield, who brainwashed him with an illegal mind-altering drug to make him resign so Sinfield could take his place. However Sinfield discovered that even the chief judge is not above the law, when his crime was discovered and he was arrested. The Council of Five reinstated Francisco.

Other chief judges have ended their term of office either by death or by resignation. Solomon, McGruder, and Francisco resigned (McGruder and Francisco twice); Hershey resigned after serving a second term. Goodman, Cal and Griffin were assassinated. Volt committed suicide (but the public were informed that he had died heroically in the line of duty). Silver attempted suicide and was later executed for dereliction of duty in wartime. Fargo resigned and then attempted suicide, but this was covered up and the public were told he had been killed in the line of duty.

Chief judges[edit]

  • In 2027 Eustace Fargo was appointed Special Prosecutor for Street Crime by President Thomas Gurney, during a massive upsurge in violent crime. With Gurney's backing, Fargo campaigned for the necessary constitutional amendments to allow the dispensing of instant justice in the street, and at the same time created academies to train the elite force of street judges which would exercise these draconian powers. In April 2031 Fargo, now Chief Judge of the United States, personally led his men into action, and over the next twenty years oversaw the growth of his new force. He insisted on the strictest standards of behaviour from his judges, including a rule of celibacy. When he himself broke this rule in 2051, he resigned and then shot himself. This was covered up and a more heroic death in the line of duty was fabricated.[21]
  • Fargo's deputy, Hollins Solomon (2051–2057), was appointed to succeed him by President Foreman Pierce. A year later, when America's three mega-cities were granted autonomy in domestic policy matters, Solomon's role was reduced to chief judge of Mega-City One, and the other two cities chose their own chief judges. After six years of fighting political battles with Congress, by which time the office of chief judge had become strictly a desk job, Solomon tired of politicking and retired, returning to his original role of law enforcement on the streets.[22]
  • Clarence Goodman (2057–2100) became the city's longest-serving chief judge, serving for around 43 years. During his term Goodman built Justice Department up into a force to rival the military. In 2064 he authorised Morton Judd’s cloning project to create new judges from the best available genetic material (the first batch included Judge Dredd in 2066). In June 2070, when President Booth started the global Atomic Wars, Goodman overthrew the constitutional government of the US and seized power for himself, provoking a civil war which lasted into 2071. The United States broke up into three independent city-states. Thirty years later, Goodman was assassinated by renegade judges in a coup d'état orchestrated by his own deputy, Cal.[23]
  • Judge Cal (2100–2101) became chief judge by blackmailing and recruiting corrupt judges, and then murdering his opponents. He became completely insane and began a reign of terror, and eventually sentenced the entire population to death. After surviving a revolution led by Judge Dredd and various assassination attempts, he was killed in 2101 after three and a half months in office. Dredd was nominated to replace him as chief judge, but declined, nominating his former tutor Judge Griffin instead.[24]
  • Jürgen Griffin (2101–2104) was elected by acclamation, following his crucial role in fighting Cal. He was wounded early into the Apocalypse War and sent out of the city for safety, only to be captured and brainwashed into supporting the enemy as a propaganda tool. He was executed by Dredd for treachery.[25]
  • Hilda Margaret McGruder (2104–2108) took command as she was the only surviving member of the Council of Five after the war. She proved to be an outstanding leader, overseeing the reconstruction of the city and the reformation of Justice Department. After four years she resigned – despite the entreaties of her colleagues – when she questioned her own judgement following her mishandling of a crisis. On her way out, she dismissed her supporters from the Council as they had shown flawed judgement.[26]
  • Thomas Silver (2108–2112; 2113) was unanimously chosen by the Council of Five. He brutally suppressed the peaceful campaign movement for a return to democratic government. When Dredd resigned (partly due to Silver's questionable methods of quashing dissent), Silver covered it up and replaced him with an imposter. At the beginning of the city's occupation by the Dark Judges, Silver was killed by Judge Death but reanimated as a zombie. In 2113, a year after McGruder returned to office, Silver challenged her for his job back, citing her own resignation as a disqualification. Dredd (having returned also) ruled in Silver's favour but then convicted him of gross dereliction of duty for deserting his command in time of war. Dredd then killed Silver once and for all.[27]
  • McGruder’s second term (2112–2116) was initially successful, despite the mental health problems which she had acquired during the interval, but her mental impairment became worse over time. She suspended the Council of Five (as noted above) in favour of calling forums of senior judges if and when needed. Among several misguided policies was a controversial scheme to use robot judges to alleviate a serious shortage of human judges, continually trying to force the scheme through even though the robots repeatedly malfunctioned and killed people. After a robot attempted to kill her, she was eventually persuaded to resign again. An Interim Council of three judges ruled briefly until a new chief judge was elected.[28]
  • Hadrian Volt (2116–2121) restored the Council and instituted sweeping reforms to the office of chief judge (described above), and also restored the elected mayor and elected council of Mega-City One (which had not existed since the Apocalypse War). Blaming himself for failing to prevent the Robot War of 2121, he shot himself. As with Fargo’s death, this was concealed from the public and more creditable circumstances were invented.[29] He was succeeded by his deputy, Judge Hershey, who was elected in her own right in 2122.[16]
  • Barbara Hershey (2122–2131) was Mega-City One's third longest serving chief judge, after Goodman and Fargo. She ruled over a relatively stable and prosperous period for the Mega-City, her greatest test perhaps being the terrorist atrocities committed by the pro-democracy movement Total War.[30] Ruling with a steady hand, she brought into force many minor changes, such as giving Wally Squad, Justice Department's undercover department, a voice on the Council of Five for the first time. While generally open, honest and perhaps the most left-wing chief judge to date, she proved to be quite prepared to sanction "black ops" missions when it suited the city, and was heavily involved in Mega-City One's forceful overthrow of Ciudad Barranquilla's corrupt government.[31] Her most notable legacy, and her undoing, was agreeing to Dredd's request to repeal the Mutant Segregation Act that kept the irradiated denizens of the Cursed Earth barred from the city. The resulting disruption and unrest saw the tide turn against her, and she was voted out of office.[32]
  • Dan Francisco (2131–2132) was a street judge made famous by a 24-hour reality TV show following his exploits. Due to his fame, in 2131 he was chosen as a candidate to run against Hershey for chief judge with the intention of bringing back mutant apartheid. He was put forward as a candidate by Judges Sinfield, Cardew and Millan, who believed he would be a controllable front man, and won by a landslide after the anti-mutant Norm Supremacists organised a mutant gang attack on him (so as to rally support behind him).[33] On his first day in office he reinstated the ban on mutants,[12] but against Sinfield's wishes he implemented this policy with some measure of compassion, insisting that exiled mutants be rehoused in decent accommodation outside the city.[34] Frustrated at what he regarded as Francisco's profligate spending on the new mutant townships, Sinfield drugged Francisco with a powerful hypnotic drug and persuaded him to resign.[35]
  • Martin Sinfield (2132) was appointed deputy chief judge by Francisco in 2131, in which capacity he assigned Judge Dredd to supervise the mutant townships being built in the Cursed Earth, and attempted to control Francisco (largely unsuccessfully). Sinfield became acting chief judge in 2132 when Francisco resigned,[36] and immediately set about instituting even harsher new anti-mutant policies and causing great damage to the Justice Department. When Sinfield prematurely called off a search for a missing judge in the Cursed Earth, endangering his life, Dredd lodged a formal complaint against Sinfield with the Council of Five.[37] When the Council dismissed Dredd's claim, Dredd decided to stand for election for chief judge himself.[38] However the election was cancelled after Sinfield was arrested when evidence came to light that he had used illegal means to force Judge Francisco to resign. He was sentenced to 20 years hard labour on Titan.[39]
  • Dan Francisco (2132–2134) returned to office and appointed Dredd to the Council of Five.[39] His first year was relatively peaceful, despite the economic damage Sinfield had done, but he then had to face a lethal weaponised protozoan unleashed against the city by Soviet agents. After the "Chaos Bug" killed seven eighths of the city's population he resigned, appointing Hershey as an interim chief judge.[40]
  • Hershey (2134–2141) had agreed to be a caretaker chief judge until a permanent replacement was found, but she ended up staying on herself. Mega-City One was a shadow of its former self, with millions of the survivors reduced to abject poverty and famine. She allowed mutants to enter the city to assist in reconstruction.[40] In 2139 she restarted the robot judge programme.[41] Having lost the support of Dredd over the robots and her involvement with Judge Smiley's black ops program, Hershey resigned due to terminal illness.[42]
  • Judge Logan (2141; incumbent) became chief judge with the endorsement and encouragement of Hershey and Dredd. He embraced the new robot judges programme so enthusiastically that he appointed a robot to the Council of Five, which immediately cost him Dredd's support.[1] He eventually changed his policy.[43]



Winner: Volt (208 votes)

Defeated candidates: Dredd (130), Herriman (49), Hershey (13), Plaski (withdrew).


Winner: Hershey

Defeated candidate: Loblaw


Winner: Francisco

Defeated candidate: Hershey


Election aborted

Candidates: Sinfield, Dredd


Winner: Logan

List of chief judges[edit]

Chief judges of the United States[edit]

Chief judges of Mega-City One[edit]

  • Solomon (2052 to 2057)
  • Goodman (2057 to 2100 or 2101) (2000 AD progs 2–89)
  • Cal (2101, or 2100 to 2101) (2000 AD progs 89–108) Usurper
  • Griffin (2101 to 2104) (2000 AD progs 108–261)
  • McGruder (2104 to 2108) (2000 AD progs 270–457)
  • Silver (2108 to 2112) (2000 AD progs 457–684)

Between 2112 and 2113 an undead Silver was chief judge de jure and McGruder chief judge de facto.[44]

  • McGruder (2113 to 2116) (2000 AD progs 696–915)
  • Office in commission during interregnum (2116):
  • Volt (2116 to 2121) (2000 AD progs 918–1167)
    • Hershey acting chief judge (2121 to 2122) (2000 AD progs 1167–1178)
  • Hershey (2122 to 2131) (2000 AD progs 1178–1648)
  • Francisco (2131 to 2132) (2000 AD progs 1649–1666)
    • Sinfield acting chief judge (2132) (2000 AD progs 1667–1693) Usurper
  • Francisco (2132 to 2134) (2000 AD progs 1693–1789)
  • Hershey (2134–2141) (2000 AD progs 1789–2117)
  • Logan (2141) (2000 AD progs 2118–present)

Deputy chief judges[edit]

The position was introduced in prog 61, as Assistant Grand Judge; it was renamed Deputy Chief Judge from prog 86 onwards.

(This list is technically incomplete, but includes all relevant characters who have appeared in the comic strip.)

  • Solomon and Goodman jointly until 2051, when Solomon became chief judge.[45]
  • Goodman (2051 to 2057). Became chief judge.[46]
  • Fodder (???? to 2100). Murdered.[47]
  • Cal (2100, or 2100 to 2101). Succeeded to chief judge.[8]
  • Fish (2101, or 2100 to 2101). Assassinated.[48]
  • Grampus (2101). Executed.[49]
  • Pepper (2101 to 2103). Assassinated.[50]
  • Herriman (2116 to 2120). Assassinated.[51]
  • Hershey (2120 to 2122). Elected chief judge.[16]
  • Sinfield (2131 to 2132). Succeeded to chief judge.[52]
  • Cardew (2132). Resigned.[53]
  • Porter (2141).[54]

Other chief judges[edit]

  • Judge Death (usurper in 2112)
  • Judge Greel (acting chief judge in 2116 while the serving chief judge was abroad)
  • Judge Grice (usurper in 2115)
  • In the short-lived comic Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future (1995–96),[55] which featured an entirely different version of Judge Dredd from the original 2000 AD version, there was a chief judge called Jefferson.[56]
  • In the third issue of IDW Publishing's series Judge Dredd (2013) there was a "Chief Justice Morgan."

In other media[edit]

Different versions of Fargo (Max von Sydow) and Griffin (Jürgen Prochnow) appeared in the 1995 film Judge Dredd, with the title Chief Justice. Other characters called McGruder and Silver appeared in the film, although they were not chief justices.

Another chief judge, unnamed, appears in the 2012 film Dredd, played by Rakie Ayola.[57] Another character called Judge Volt also appeared in the film, although he was not chief judge.


  1. 1.0 1.1 2000 AD #2118
  2. 2000 AD prog 1510
  3. 2000 AD prog 68
  4. Page 2 of Judge Whitey in 2000 AD prog 2
  5. 2000 AD prog 86
  6. 2000 AD prog 559
  7. 7.0 7.1 2000 AD prog 457
  8. 8.0 8.1 2000 AD prog 89
  9. 2000 AD prog 706
  10. 2000 AD prog 891
  11. Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 3 no. 53
  12. 12.0 12.1 2000 AD prog 1649
  13. 2000 AD progs 915-918 and 1178
  14. 2000 AD prog 957
  15. 2000 AD progs 733-735
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 2000 AD prog 1178
  17. 2000 AD prog 1678
  18. John Wagner on his Facebook page: "Francisco appointed Sinfield Deputy CJ, so there was a right of succession. But because Sinfield, non-elected, appointed Cardew as DCJ, there is no automatic right to follow him." March 30, 2010.[dead link]
  19. 2000 AD prog 891, and Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 2 no. 57
  20. 2000 AD prog 1628
  21. 2000 AD progs 1510 and 1513
  22. 2000 AD progs 1514-1515
  23. 2000 AD progs 89 and 1515
  24. 2000 AD progs 89 and 108
  25. 2000 AD progs 108 and 261
  26. 2000 AD progs 270 and 457
  27. 2000 AD progs 457, 700 and 735
  28. 2000 AD progs 706 and 915-916
  29. 2000 AD progs 918 and 1167, and Judge Dredd Megazine vol. 3 no. 59
  30. 2000 AD progs 1408-1419
  31. Judge Dredd Megazine #246-249
  32. 2000 AD progs 2008 and 1628-1633
  33. 2000 AD progs 1628-1633
  34. 2000 AD prog 1651
  35. 2000 AD #2010 and 1666-1667
  36. 2000 AD #1667, 1674 and 1677
  37. 2000 AD prog 1667
  38. 2000 AD progs 1689-90
  39. 39.0 39.1 2000 AD #1693
  40. 40.0 40.1 2000 AD prog 1789
  41. 2000 AD #2024–2029
  42. 2000 AD #2115 and 2118
  43. 2000 AD #2122
  44. 2000 AD prog 735
  45. 2000 AD prog 1513
  46. 2000 AD prog 1515
  47. 2000 AD prog 61
  48. 2000 AD prog 95
  49. 2000 AD prog 107
  50. 2000 AD prog 203
  51. Batman v. Judge Dredd: "Die Laughing" (1998)
  52. 2000 AD prog 1649, 1667
  53. 2000 AD progs 1678, 1692 and 1693
  54. 2000 AD prog 2118
  55. 2000ADonline profile
  56. Archived October 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  57. IMDB

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