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

Explore the career requirements for justices of the peace. Get the facts about job duties, career outlook, salary and other requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Justice of the Peace?

In the few states where the position still exists, justices of the peace have the authority to perform lower-level judicial functions. Their power can be divided into ministerial and judicial areas. Most of their duties are administrative and include the approval of documents and the sanctification of affidavits and official declarations. Some can also authorize certain court documents, and preside over minor hearings.

Degree Required Doctoral or professional degree
Key Duties Performing ceremonies, issuing subpoenas, taking depositions for state or local government
Other Requirements State residency, registered voter, no criminal record
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% (for all judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates)*
Average Salary (2015) $116,100 (for all judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 five states still authorized justice of the peace positions as of 2015 (www.jpus.org). They were Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California 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, magistrate judges, and magistrates, including justices of the peace, were expected to increase by one percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in 2015 that judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates earned an average income of $116,100 per year.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The types of judges most people are familiar with are trial judges. They oversee legal disputes and can work at the district, state, or federal level. Lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants also work in the field of law, so research skills and a familiarity with legal concepts are similarly useful. Mediators and arbitrators also help facilitate communication during a legal conflict. Private investigators search for information on someone's background, so similar skills in research and communication skills are helpful.

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