The good news about becoming a JP in Connecticut is that there are no special requirements, no exams to take or fees to pay. The less good news is that the process is tightly controlled by the major political parties in your town and its Town Clerk.
|How the Process Works||People to Talk To||If you Belong to a Political Party||If You are Unaffiliated|
- While the state regulates the activities of JPs, Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities control both the total number and the selection
- Each town allots one-third of its total number to the Republicans and one-third to the Democrats. The remaining one-third goes to those who are members of minor parties or politically unaffiliated.
- Each political party writes its own rules about who gets appointed and how. Independents simply apply to the Town Clerk.
- JPs serve for four years, in phase with presidential elections, and take office on January 1. The year 2016 is thus an “election” year for JPs as well as for U.S. president.
Talk to the Town Clerk
- Ask your Town Clerk for the list of all the JPs in your town. (You may have to get this in person.) Also ask for the state’s Justice of the Peace Manual, a must-have document. It’s also available online.
Talk to a JP
- Find a JP or two in your town to talk to, preferably those registered in the same political party (or non-affiliated) as you.
- When you talk to the JPs, find out what it’s like to be one. What do they really do? How much do they get paid for their services? Don’t be afraid to ask those personal questions that will help you to judge whether you want to go ahead with the process. If they’re political appointees, they can also give you hints about that aspect of the process.
- The Town Clerk has the names and phone numbers of the Chairpersons of the political parties in your town. When you call the party Chair, you’ll be asked if you’re a member of that party, and perhaps about your past service or contributions to the party. Be sure you can state in a couple of sentences why you want to be a JP.
- The Chair will probably ask you to submit a letter outlining your reasons for becoming a JP and your qualifications. When you do, be sure to follow up and see if there is anything else you can do to bolster your chances. Becoming active in local politics will surely help your cause.
- Ask the Chair about the criteria used for selecting JPs. Ask if all the slots are currently filled. If they are, ask what plans exist for replacing JPs who move away or pass away. This could get you selected much sooner than waiting for the next election.
If you’re politically unaffiliated or belong to a minor party, you must apply in a presidential election year (2016).
- Make sure you are not registered with one of the major political parties during the period beginning three months before August 1 and ending on the date of the appointment. Apply to the Town Clerk between August 1 and November 1.
- In many towns, Unaffiliated slots remain unfilled because there are not enough applicants. However, if there are more applications than slots, the Town Clerk must run a lottery with all applicants entered. You take your chances without having to write any letters or please anyone.
- If a vacancy in the Unaffiliated slots occurs during the 4-year term, it will be filled based upon the order the applicants’ names were drawn in the original lottery. Only persons on that list may be appointed to fill vacancies in these non-major party Justice positions. If there was no lottery or if all persons on the list have already been appointed, no additional Justices may be appointed to fill non-major party vacancies.