How to Become a Justice of the Peace

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The U.S. legal system is a complex system that encompasses many officials to ensure its effective function. Official judges cannot handle all of the work on their own and therefore there are judges with limited jurisdiction to carry out some of the duties. A Justice of the Peace is a judicial officer that is appointed to keep the peace.


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What does a Justice of the Peace do?

A Justice of the Peace is a judge of a court that has limited jurisdiction and usually presides over a court that hears smaller cases such as traffic violations, misdemeanors, or other petty criminal violations. They may also have authority of cases that involve landlord or tenant disputes, small debts, civil lawsuits up to $10,000, and other small claims court procedures. Proceedings presented to a Justice of the Peace are usually quicker and less formal that those presented in other courts. Justices of the Peace also often administer oaths, perform marriages, take dispositions, same-sex civil unions, and witness signatures. Some Justices of the Peace have subpoena power, where they can issue warrants for minor courts. In rural locations some Justices of the Peace serve as the coroner.

What kind of training does a justice of the peace need?

Justices of the peace typically have at least a bachelor degree. Some states require Justices of the Peace to have completed law school and be practicing attorneys before becoming elected or appointed. They must meet the state requirements of being a resident of the state they are applying in, being a registered voter for at least 3 years, and writing an oath stating never a crime conviction. They must also pass many background checks. Justices of the peace also usually complete continuing education courses while they are serving.

What are the prospects for a career as a justice of the peace?

Employment of justices of the peace is projected to grow slower than average for all professions, increasing 4% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Rising caseloads in all types of courts and population growth will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be fair with continued competition. Majority of job openings will stem from the need to replace justices of the peace that retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do justices of the peace make?

As of October 2009, the average annual salary for justices of the peace is $50,000; average salaries can vary greatly depending on location, industry, employer, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a justice of the peace is an excellent choice for individuals who have a strong interest in the law that would like to preside over small court systems. Justices of the Peace must have strong political support because they are often elected or appointed by the citizens of their jurisdiction. They must have superior knowledge in law concepts and be able to make executive decisions.

Joshua T Osborne

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