In 1983, the Georgia Constitution established Magistrate Courts. Prior to this time these courts were known as Justice of the Peace Courts and small claims courts. Today, the Magistrate Courts, or Justice of the Peace Courts, and those who serve as Justices of the Peace have limited jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, traffic violations, petty criminal infractions, landlord disputes, and civil marriages. Justice of the Peace courts tend to be less formal and move faster than other court proceedings.
Steps to Become a Justice of the Peace
Duties performed by the Justice of the Peace not only vary from state to state, but also from county to county. In order to fully understand what duties you will be expected to perform and to understand the implications of those duties, contact your county clerk for a complete list of duties.
While not necessary in all states, in Georgia a Justice of the Peace must have a B.A. and a J.D. Therefore, in order to hold the position of Justice of the Peace you must receive your B.A. from an accredited college or university. After receiving your B.A., you must attend an ABA-accredited law school and pass the bar exam.
In order to become a Justice of the Peace, you are either elected or appointed depending on the county law. In either case you must meet all the requirements, including having a background check, paying your application fee and having no prior criminal record. If your application is approved, you’ll know within a 12-week period.
If your county elects the Justice of the Peace then you must apply to run for the office, gain votes and be elected by community members in order to hold the seat. In these cases, you may hold the seat of Justice for up to four years.