Justice of the Peace  What They Do

Just the Facts

Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates Career Video

Insider Info

dotA justice of the peace is a type of judge. They preside in courts with limited jurisdiction.

dotIn the U.S., justices of the peace preside in courts or in administrative positions. "They work in the people's court with civil matters and small claims lawsuits," explains Pat Garcia, a court administrator in Texas.

The exact duties of a JP may vary from state to state. In some areas, a justice of the peace may try only misdemeanors. Others may be able to try small claims.

dotIn general, justices of the peace also perform many civic duties. They handle inquests, make death pronouncements and perform marriages.

"We hear everything from assault charges to dog tickets and wildlife violations," says Larry Cole, a justice of the peace in Oregon.

dotAmerican justices of the peace can either be elected or appointed, depending on the state. Some states do not have justice of the peace courts.

dotJPs work in courthouses and justice centers, in an office or in a courtroom setting. But they can be called on to work outside regular office hours. "Depending what they have on their calendar, they can work evenings and weekends," says Garcia.

Travel can be required.

dotLike other judges, justices of the peace must be honest, impartial and fair in their dealings. A justice of the peace must also enjoy dealing with all types of people.

dotThis is a job that can be done by the physically challenged.

At a Glance

Act as a judge in lower-level cases

  • You should like to work with people
  • You may have to work evenings and weekends
  • Be prepared to work your way up