Becoming a justice of the peace doesn't take long if you already have the right educational background and experience, but you will have to jump through a few hoops. Years of education and experience practicing law are prerequisites for becoming a justice of the peace in most states.
What a Justice of the Peace Does
What exactly a justice of the peace does will vary by state, just as the requirements to earn the position will be different. Responsibilities could include:
- Small claims cases
- Evictions and other landlord and tenant disputes
- Performing civil marriages
- Administering oaths
- Misdemeanor cases
- Traffic violation cases
- Small debts
The legal cases justices of the peace handle are typically resolved much more quickly than other types of cases.
Requirements for Becoming a Justice of the Peace
If you're hoping to become a justice of the peace for a friend's wedding or to make a simple career change, keep in mind that the process can take up to eight or ten weeks, after completing years of college. You'll have to apply for the position just like any other job. Those interested in applying to work as a justice of the peace can visit the website of their state's Secretary of State to find out specific qualifications and application requirements.
Other requirements may include:
- Applicants must hold a Bachelor's degree and, in most cases, a law degree.
- Applicants must pass the bar exam for their state and gain experience before being considered for a justice of the peace position.
- Applicants must be a resident of the state in which they hope to become a justice of the peace.
- Applicants have to have been registered to vote for at least three years prior to applying.
- Applicants can't have a criminal record.
- Applicants must have three letters of recommendation, one from a registered voter and two from other justices of the peace.
- Applicants will need to complete a form that enables a complete state police records check.
- An application fee must be paid.
You can get your application from the Secretary of State office. In some cases, you may be able to get it through the mail or email. Once you've completed the requirements, you may be appointed or elected to the position and stay there for the amount of time determined by your state.
Another Route to Take
If you were looking into becoming a justice of the peace in order to conduct wedding ceremonies and found that the requirements were much more stringent than what you expected or are ready to commit to, there is another way to do it. Becoming an ordained minister will allow you to perform marriage ceremonies and more. Visit sites like Open Ordination and The Monastery for more information.
If you're interested in applying to work as a justice of the peace, your first stop should be the Secretary of State's website for your state. From there, you can determine which of the qualifications listed above are necessary for where you live or where you hope to become a justice of the peace.