- California JPs
- Connecticut JPs
- Maine JPs
- Louisiana JPs
- Massachusetts JPs
- New Hampshire JPs
- South Carolina JPs
- Vermont JPs
- Illinois JPs
A Brief History of JPs
Along with their meager possessions, the early English settlers brought to the new world a well-developed set of ideas about laws and justice. And though they sought freedom from an oppressive monarchy, they kept one of the king’s institutions: the Justice of the Peace.
In the American colonies, every state had a Justice of the Peace system at one time or another, although specific duties varied from state to state. .. and still do. Since they were rarely paid and were not trained or qualified, their duties usually extended to minor matters such as vagrancy and misdemeanors. Some of the founding fathers were JPs, the most famous being George Washington! In some states a JP was also the coroner, empowered to determine the cause of death. The results were as accurate as the JP’s medical training and investigative skills (usually nil!).
As time went on, in many states the JP system was absorbed by the state’s “regular” judicial system (e.g. New York). Those that still use JPs continue the original traditions. JPs are often not paid, usually appointed, and perform only minor duties. They may issue warrants for search and arrest, conduct preliminary hearings and administer oaths. They may have jurisdiction in financial matters such as foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property. One of their most enjoyable duties is performing the marriage ceremony.
The requirements for JP’s may vary state to state. To learn more about JPs select a state tab above.
P.S. The Justice of the Peace system is still alive and well in other countries colonized by the English, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
About California JPs
Connecticut JPs are authorized to perform the following functions:
- Perform marriages and civil unions
- Take depositions
- Administer oaths and affirmations
- Take acknowledgments
When a secular ceremony is desired, a JP is frequently called upon to be the officiant. The rules for obtaining and filing marriage licenses are:
- Blood Test Not Required
Did you know that Connecticut was one of the last states to require premarital syphilis and rubella screening? The state finally heeded the counsel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and repealed mandatory blood tests effective October 1, 2003. Testifying in support of the bill that passed, Deputy Commissioner Norma Gayle of the CT Dept of Public Health said, “Today the requirement is costly, inconvenient and has minimal impact towards prevention.” She noted that the test is no longer “an effective component of the Department’s syphilis control program.” Besides Connecticut, only Indiana and Montana still required rubella testing for women of child-bearing age previously.
- The marriage license must be Obtained in the town where the marriage will take place. The couple must both appear at the Town Clerk’s office to apply for the license.
- After the ceremony, the officiant must return the completed license to the town where the marriage took place by the first week of the month following the marriage.Each Connecticut locality has its own Registrar of Vital Records. However, only in New Haven, Hartford, Middletown and Bridgeport does a person hold that exact title. In the other 165 towns, the Town Clerk is the ex-officio Registrar.
Depositions. A deposition is the taking of testimony under oath for use in civil action or probate court proceedings. In this context, a JP may also issue a subpoena to ensure that the witness appears at the deposition.
Oaths and Affirmations. An oath is an oral declaration of responsibility made by a person assuming a role. The person then signs an affidavit, witnessed by the JP, attesting to the truth of the oath. (An affirmation, using words other than “swear” and “so help you God,” may be administered instead.) Until the Connecticut Sheriff system was abolished in the last election, oaths were taken by special deputies appointed by a sheriff.
Acknowledgements. An acknowledgement is a formal declaration by a person that a document s/he is signing is his or her “free act and deed” and that s/he is who s/he says s/he is. Acknowledgements are typically required in real estate transactions and primary and nominating petitions.
About Maine JPs
- Louisiana Justices of the Peace are considered Judges by law in every respect and are held up to the same canons and rules as all other judges in the state.
- Among their other duties, JPs are entitled to perform marriage ceremonies. After 18 years of service, a Louisiana JP may legally perform weddings for life, whether retired or voted out of office.
- JPs also hold litter court and issue arrest warrants, and perform wedding ceremonies.
- Each JP has a Constable, whose duty is to act as a bailiff for the JP court and provide service of documents; small claims up to $5k, orders, judgments, evictions, citations, etc.
- JPs and Constables are elected to 6 year terms. Both are paid positions. JPs are also allowed to charge fees for civil services rendered.
- Louisiana JPs have a mandatory annual training conference hosted by the state attorney general’s office.”
A justice of the peace is appointed by the Governor for a seven year term and confirmed by the Governors Council. Each city/town is allowed one justice for every 5000 residents. Applications may be obtained from the Governor’sCouncil.
- Non-residents, including JPs from other states, can marry people in Massachusetts. Also, a relative or friend may obtain one-time permission to perform a marriage. Get an application.
- Summary of duties
- Fees for the Solemnization of a Marriage are prescribed by the State.
Application fee: $75
Appointment by Governor and Executive Council is for five year term.
Powers of the Justice of the Peace include taking Acknowledgements, Oaths and affirmations, Jurats, Depositions, Copy certifications, Witnessing or attesting signatures, Protests, performing marriage and civil union ceremonies.
Requirements for becoming a Justice of the Peace and other information
Justice of the Peace Manual (pdf format)
Non-residents entitled to perform marriages and civil unions in their own states may apply to do so in New Hampshire.
- JPs used to be appointed by the Governor with a lifetime term.
- Phased out. The last JP retired in 2008.
- The authority originally given to JPs is now vested in the Notaries and the Municipal Judges.
Information from the Vermont Justice of the Peace Guide
HOW TO BECOME A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
To become a justice of the peace, you must be elected at a general election or be appointed to fill a vacancy. Although elected by a town, justices of the peace are actually county officers.
- 1. ELECTION OF JUSTICES A person must be a legal voter of the town and have been nominated by party caucus or, failing that, by the town committee in order to be elected justice of the peace. A person may also run as an independent.
- 2. NUMBER OF JUSTICES TO ELECT The Vermont Constitution Chapter II, Section 52 prescribes the number of justices of the peace for every town on the basis of population. In each case the constitution sets a maximum number of justices that may be elected. The town may elect fewer justices if it wishes.
- 3. APPOINTMENT The governor may fill a vacancy in the office of justice of the peace. A vacancy can occur by resignation, death, insanity or when an incumbent moves to another state. Resignations can be sent to the town clerk and the Office of the Governor. NOTE: Moving to another Vermont town or county does not create a vacancy. In most cases, however.
- 4. TERM. The term of a justice of the peace begins on February 1 of the year following the general election and runs for two years.
- 5. OATHS OF OFFICE A justice of the peace is not fully qualified to serve until he or she has taken the oath of office and the oath of allegiance and has filed a notarized copy of those oaths with the town clerk. The secretary of state provides copies of these oath forms to every newly elected justice.
THE OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF ALLEGIANCE You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will be true and faithful to the State of Vermont, and that you will not, directly or indirectly, do any act or thing injurious to the Constitution or Government thereof. (If an oath) So help you God. (If an affirmation) Under pains and penalties of perjury.
THE OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF OFFICE You (your name here) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will faithfully execute the office of justice of the peace for the town of (your town here) and will therein do equal right and justice to all persons to the best of your judgment and ability, according to law. (If an oath) So help you God. (If an affirmation) Under the pains and penalties of perjury.
6. COMPENSATION No statute entitles justices of the peace to compensation for performing his or her duties under the law. However, in some instances compensation may be appropriate. … It is also traditional for parties to a marriage to offer some compensation to a justice of the peace. This is a matter between the justices and the couple, however; state law is silent on the subject.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
- 1. GENERAL DUTIES The duties of justices of the peace can fall into five categories of responsibilities:
- a) Elections. Justices of the peace are members of the board of civil authority (BCA). Members of the BCA serve as election officials at town elections by Australian ballot and statewide elections. Justices also are responsible for delivering absentee ballots to voters at election time.
- b) Tax Abatement and Appeals. Justices of the peace sit as members of the town board for abatement of taxes to determine whether a taxpayer’s tax obligation should be forgiven under certain circumstances. Justices of the peace also serve an important role in the town’s tax appeal process. As a member of the board of civil authority, justices sit to hear and decide appeals when citizens do not agree with the final decision of the listers.
- c) Marriages. Justices of the peace may also solemnize marriages in Vermont.
- d) Oaths and Notary. Justices of the peace may also administer oaths in all cases where an oath is required, unless a specific law makes a different provision. A justice of the peace is a notary public ex officio and has all the acknowledgment powers of a notary public. However, the justice of the peace must file with the county clerk in order to act as a notary public (but the fee is waived).
- e) Magistrate. Justices of the peace may also serve as a magistrate when so commissioned by the Supreme Court.
- 2. MANDATORY VS. DISCRETIONARY DUTIES
- Mandatory duties are those duties which, by law, the justice must perform. These include: participating as a member of the board of civil authority by serving as an election official and assisting on Election Day, sitting on tax appeals and serving as a member of the board of tax abatement.
- Discretionary functions of the office include performance of marriages, administering oaths and serving as a magistrate. Justices have the power to perform these functions but are not required to do so in any particular instance. In deciding whether or not to perform these functions the justice may not discriminate on the basis of any prohibited factor including race, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.
- 3. SOLEMNIZING MARRIAGES
- One of the most delightful powers of a justice of the peace is the authority to perform marriages. 18 V.S.A. §§ 5144, 5164. A justice’s jurisdiction is not limited to the town or county, and justices may perform marriages anywhere within the boundaries of the State of Vermont. Performing ceremonies are discretionary functions of this office. A justice may decide whether to perform a particular ceremony on a case by case basis, or may decline to perform all ceremonies or may decide only to perform ceremonies for family and friends. A justice may not discriminate on any basis prohibited by law (age, race, sex, national origin, religion or sexual orientation).
- Before the ceremony, one of the parties to the proposed marriage must have applied to the town clerk of the town where either party resides or, if neither is a resident of the state, to any town clerk to obtain an application for a license. The application must be signed by one of the parties to the proposed marriage. Vermont law does not require a medical certificate, blood test or a waiting period. Once a license is obtained, the marriage can be celebrated anywhere in Vermont. 18 V.S.A. § 5145.
- The marriage must be completed within 60 days of the issuance of the license or certificate. If the ceremony is delayed for more than 60 days, a new license must be applied for and issued.
- An official who solemnizes marriages must complete a section on the form and return it to the town clerk who issued it within ten days of the ceremony. 18 V.S.A. § 5131. The official must sign the form and include his/her official title “Justice of the Peace.”
- State law is silent on the mechanics of wedding ceremonies. Some authorities say that a minimum ceremony could be as short as the justice saying, “By the authority vested in me 26 by the State of Vermont, I now pronounce you husband and wife” (or some variant of that phrase) or “By the authority vested in me by the State of Vermont, I hereby join you in civil marriage.” By signing the license the official is certifying that the parties entered into the marriage with mutual consent. Parties are free to discuss with the justice their own ideas of what they want in a ceremony.
- For those wanting a more formal civil marriage ceremony, a possible ceremony performed by a justice of the peace could include the following:
Any adult can now apply to the Vermont Secretary of State to be a “temporary officiant” at a specific wedding or civil union. The fee to apply is $100. Link to application (pdf).