Justice of the Peace: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a justice of the peace. Learn about salary potential, career outlook and responsibilities to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Justice of the Peace?

Justices of the Peace perform varied functions within the judicial field, including adjudicating minor legal offenses, officiating at marriages or administering public oaths. They are either appointed or elected and work on behalf of the state or county. The role of a Justice of the Peace varies by state, and in some states their traditional duties have been taken over by other government bodies. Most may spend the majority of their time dealing with traffic violations, small claims, misdemeanors, or pre-trial hearings.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education or Degree Required Appointed or elected; no formal education required
Key Responsibilities Preside at weddings and public functions; administer oaths; hear small claims court cases
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1% decline (judges and hearing officers)
Median Salary (2015)* $126,930 (judges, magistrate judges and magistrates)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Qualifications Do I Need to be a Justice of the Peace?

Justices of the Peace are either appointed by a governor or elected, depending on the state. They serve terms of 4-7 years. To work in this job, you don't have to be an attorney, as judges usually must, and no formal education is necessary. You need to meet some requirements, though, such as being a resident of the state where you'll serve. In many states, you're also required to be a registered voter. Individual states may have other requirements. For instance, in Vermont, you must be nominated by party caucus or a town committee, while in New Hampshire, you submit an application that must be endorsed by two Justices of the Peace and one registered voter.

To be successful as a Justice of the Peace, you'll need strong written and spoken communication skills for the ceremonial, judicial and administrative duties you'll perform. If presiding over court cases, you must be able to listen, hear and read effectively, winnowing out the important facts from large volumes of information. You must also speak clearly and effectively, so that those in the courtroom, as well as those at ceremonies you perform, can understand you. In addition, Justices of the Peace need to be able to apply the rules of law with reason and objectivity, not allowing their personal beliefs or feelings to interfere. Problem solving and decision making are other indispensable skills.

What Are the Job Responsibilities?

States require different duties from their Justices of the Peace. All would allow you to preside at marriages, civil unions and other official public functions on behalf of the state or county in which you serve. In some states, you might hear misdemeanor, small claims, traffic violation, property dispute and/or other lower-level court cases. You also might administer oaths and take depositions and witness affidavits. In Texas, a Justice of the Peace can in some cases serve as coroner and, in Vermont, as an election official. Other duties could include issuing arrest and search warrants or foreclosing mortgages.

Where Are There Jobs for Justices of the Peace?

As of 2017, Justice of the Peace positions still existed in several states including, Connecticut, Maine, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In all other states, the offices and functions of the Justice of the Peace have been assumed by other entities, such as municipal courts or Notaries Public. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that during the 2014-2024 decade, positions for judges and hearing officers, which include Justices of the Peace, were expected to decline by one percent (www.bls.gov).

How Much Might I Earn?

According to the BLS, the annual median compensation for judges, magistrate judges and magistrates was $126,930 in May 2015. Depending on the state, you might also be able to charge fees for some services, such as officiating at marriages and civil unions. Sometimes fee amounts are set by the state.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are few careers related to the courts system or law which require little or no formal post-secondary education, as does the position of Justice of the Peace. One such career is as a private detective or investigator, which require only a high school diploma. These professionals gather information about legal, financial, and personal matters and may offer services such as finding missing persons or verifying someone's background. Another option is a career as a paralegal or legal assistant, who require only an associate's degree. They work to support lawyers by organizing files, researching, and writing documents.

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