A justice of the peace is a person who is authorized to perform and delegate over minor legal obligations. These duties include performing marriage ceremonies, witnessing signatures and oaths, and taking depositions. In New Jersey, a justice of the peace also acts as a municipal court judge. To become a justice of the peace, you must have a law degree. However, lawfully ordained members of the clergy for any recognized religion in the United States are also given Justice of the Peace powers.
Receive an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. It is best to focus on an undergraduate major related to law or social sciences. This will give a better understanding of the legal system and laws in the U.S.
Receive a juris doctorate degree from an accredited university. A law degree is required in the state of New Jersey to be a justice of the peace, but is not required in all states.
A juris doctorate degree must be obtained from a university that is accredited by the American Bar Association. See Resources for a full list of universities.
Take and pass the state bar exam. Once this exam has been passed, you will be able to practice law in the state in any focal area (criminal defense, criminal prosecution, environmental law, real estate law, etc.).
The exam is administered by The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners in Trenton, N.J., and is given two times a year--once in July and once in February. The results of whether you passed or failed are typically available within three months. The exam is a two-day process. The Multistate Bar Examination (also known as the MBE) will be given on the first day of testing. This test covers a variety of areas of federal and state law and consist of 200 multiple-choice questions. On the second day, you will be given seven essay questions to answer, which are geared towards testing reasoning and analytical skills in addition to legal knowledge.
Gain courtroom experience. In order to later become a judge, you will need a significant amount of courtroom experience--usually a minimum of 10 years.
Become a judge at either the municipal, tax, federal district or superior court level. In order to obtain a position as a judge, you will need to either be appointed or elected to the position. In either instance, you will need to garner political support on the local and state level. Federal judges generally have lifetime appointments by the governor, and municipal judges typically have fixed terms of office that can be renewed through election or appointment.
In New Jersey, all municipal judges are considered part-time and appointed by the mayor, with joint appointments made by the state's governor. This is because most municipal judges also act as attorneys, practicing and maintaining their own firms. Once you are a judge, you will be given justice of the peace powers that continue even after you retire.
Notify the state that you are a member of the clergy or are a leader of a recognized religious group in the United States. The state will then grant you justice of the peace powers in the state as well.