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How to Become a Justice of the Peace

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Justices of the peace can perform a number of civil and legal duties, which include officiating at civil wedding ceremonies. As of 2014, only eight states elect or otherwise appoint justices of the peace. They are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Texas and Vermont. All other states have absorbed the justice of the peace system into their regular court system.

Meeting Basic Requirements

The basic requirements for becoming a justice of the peace vary by state. For example, while all states require you to live in the town or city where you want to work, some states require you to be a registered voter, apply for the position and pass a background check. In some states, must pay a fee when applying to become a justice of the peace. Some require justices of the peace to take continuing education classes during each year under appointment.

Meeting State-Specific Requirements

To become a justice of the peace in some states, you do not need to meet special requirements, take an exam, or pay a fee. In Connecticut, the chairpersons of the political parties appoint justices of the peace based on interest, but they only have a specific number of slots to fill. In Vermont, Arizona, and Texas, justices of the peace are chosen in a general election or appointed to fill a vacancy. The secretary of the state in the state where you live can tell you the basic and state-specific requirements you must meet to become a justice of the peace.

Working as a Justice of the Peace

Depending on the state where you live, as a justice of the peace you may serve as an election official, administer oaths, preside over civil courts, take depositions, call meetings to order, issue search and arrest warrants, conduct preliminary hearings and exercise jurisdiction in financial matters. In six of the eight states that still have justices of the peace they often officiate at weddings and civil unions. Those in Arizona and Arkansas do not have that authority.

Seeking Reappointment

Most states limit how long a justice of the peace can serve before seeking reappointment or running for re-election. For example, justices of the peace in Vermont can serve for two years before they must run for re-election. In Massachusetts, the governor appoints justices of the peace to seven-year terms. In Connecticut, justices of the peace serve until they resign, move away or die.


William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.

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