The aim of this paper is to describe some basic characteristics of the Italian magistracy in the year 2000. It is based on a secondary analysis of quantitative data from the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura database, where longitudinal information about individual magistrates is collected. It focuses on gender differences, professional identities, geographical mobility and typical career patterns. Special attention is devoted to analysing the higher functions (state attorneys, presidents of criminal and civil courts and judges in the Supreme Court - Corte di Cassazione). The main results of the analysis include theoretical considerations, hypotheses and methodological suggestions for both a national survey of Italian magistrates and local case studies about the relationship between the magistracy and society.