Justice of the Peace: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

In the few states where the position still exists, a justice of the peace has the authority to perform lower-level judicial functions. Find out which states have justices of the peace, and see what the experience and education requirements are for this job. Schools offering Legal Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Will I Do as a Justice of the Peace?

As a justice of the peace, you'll work for a state or local government. Your duties will depend on your jurisdiction and may include officiating secular marriage and civil union ceremonies, witnessing oaths and signatures, taking depositions, issuing subpoenas and taking acknowledgements. In some jurisdictions, you may serve as a judge on small claims court or misdemeanor offenses, aid in foreclosures, conduct inquests and provide mediation services. You may also hear local tax appeals. Your term as a justice of the peace will depend on your state.

What is the Occupational Outlook for this Career?

According to the Justice of the Peace Association, only seven states still authorized justice of the peace positions as of 2011 (www.jpus.org). They were Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. In the rest of the states, these responsibilities have been incorporated into the duties of a state notary, judge or magistrate. Traditionally, justice of the peace positions are unpaid, but you may be able to charge fees based on your location and services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for all judges and judicial officials, including justices of the peace, were expected to increase by only four percent between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). This growth was slower than average for all occupations and suggested increased competition for these types of jobs.

What Prerequisites Must I Have?

There are no educational prerequisites to become a justice of the peace. Requirements generally include being a resident of the state where you're applying to become a justice of the peace, being a registered voter and not having a criminal record. You are either appointed to this position by the governor or elected by local voters, although there are only a few locations that still use an election process. Terms of up to six years are common.

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