Justice of the peace

A justice of the peace


A Justice of the Peace (JP) is an appointed or elected public official who serves as a part-time magistrate and performs various administrative and judicial duties within their jurisdiction. JPs are integral to the legal system, particularly in many common-law countries. Their primary role is to provide accessible and convenient services to the public, including witnessing legal documents, administering oaths, and adjudicating certain minor legal matters.

Here are some of the typical tasks performed by a justice of the peace:

  • Administer oaths and affirmations to individuals involved in legal proceedings or other official matters.
  • Witness and authenticate various legal documents, such as affidavits, declarations, and statutory declarations.
  • Preside over certain minor legal matters, such as small claims court cases, traffic offenses, and minor civil disputes.
  • Conduct marriage ceremonies and issue marriage licenses, depending on the jurisdiction’s regulations.
  • Perform notarial acts, including certifying copies of documents and attesting to signatures’ authenticity.
  • Mediate and facilitate resolution in disputes between parties, encouraging amicable settlements when possible.
  • Issue search warrants and arrest warrants, depending on the jurisdiction’s legal authority granted to JPs.
  • Oversee the signing of wills and powers of attorney, providing impartial verification.
  • Act as a neutral third party in the signing of important documents, ensuring the parties understand the legal implications.
  • Review and assess evidence and arguments presented during hearings to make fair and unbiased decisions.
  • Collaborate with other legal professionals, such as lawyers and court clerks, to manage legal proceedings effectively.
  • Conduct bail hearings and determine bail conditions for certain criminal offenses, adhering to legal guidelines.
  • Participate in ongoing professional development and training to stay updated on changes in the law and legal practices.
  • Serve as a community resource, providing information and guidance on legal matters to the public.
  • Conduct legal research and seek advice from legal experts on complex matters when necessary.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to justice of the peace:

peace commissioner
peace justice
court judge

Working conditions

Justice of the Peace roles can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and local laws. JPs may work in various settings, such as community centers, courtrooms, municipal offices, or private offices. The schedule for JPs is often flexible, as they typically serve part-time and may hold other professional or personal responsibilities. Some JPs may be appointed or elected for fixed terms, while others may hold their position indefinitely, subject to good conduct and reappointment or re-election.

Minimum qualifications

The qualifications and requirements to become a Justice of the Peace can differ significantly between jurisdictions. In many cases, JPs are community members who have been appointed or elected due to their reputation, character, and willingness to serve the public. Some jurisdictions may require specific legal or judicial experience or formal legal qualifications, while others may focus on personal qualities such as integrity, fairness, and community involvement.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Justice of the peace is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Justice of the peace career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to justice of the peace.

supreme court judge
court jury coordinator

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of justice of the peace.

  • Civil law: The legal rules and their applications used in disputes between different parties.
  • Court procedures: The regulations which are in place during the investigation of a court case and during a court hearing, and of how these events occur.
  • Civil process order: The legal procedures and standards that courts follow in civil lawsuits.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of justice of the peace.

  • Make legal decisions: Make decisions in legal cases to reach an official conclusion that has to be enforced, creating a legally binding decision for the parties involved in the case.
  • Supervise court hearings: Supervise the procedures during a court hearing to ensure they are compliant with regulations, occur in an orderly and honest manner, and to ensure that no moral or ethical boundaries are crossed during questioning or the presentation of legal arguments.
  • Compile legal documents: Compile and collect legal documents from a specific case in order to aid an investigation or for a court hearing, in a manner compliant with legal regulations and ensuring records are properly maintained.
  • Maintain court order: Ensure that order is kept in court during a hearing.
  • Hear legal arguments: Hear legal arguments presented during a court hearing or other context in which legal cases are handled and decided upon, in a manner that provides both sides equal opportunity to present their arguments, and making a decision based on the arguments in an honest and impartial manner.
  • Analyse legal evidence: Analyse evidence, such as evidence in criminal cases, legal documentation regarding a case, or other documentation that can be regarded as evidence, in order to obtain a clear image of the case and reach resolutions.
  • Comply with legal regulations: Ensure you are properly informed of the legal regulations that govern a specific activity and adhere to its rules, policies and laws.
  • Interpret law: Interpret the law during the investigation of a case in order to know the correct procedures in handling the case, the specific status of the case and the parties involved, the possible outcomes, and how to present the best arguments for the most favourable outcome.
  • Supervise legal case procedures: Supervise the procedures conducted during or after a legal case to ensure that everything occurred compliant with legal regulations, that the case is finished before closing, and to verify whether no mistakes have been made and all necessary steps were undertaken during the progression of the case from start to closing.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of justice of the peace. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Family law: The legal rules that govern family-related disputes between individuals such as marriages, child adoption, civil unions, etc.
  • Law enforcement: The different organisations involved in law enforcement, as well as the laws and regulations in law enforcement procedures.
  • Contract law: The field of legal principles that govern written agreements between parties concerning the exchange of goods or services, including contractual obligations and termination.
  • Legal case management: The procedures of a legal case from opening to closing, such as the documentation that needs to be prepared and handled, the people involved in different stages of the case, and the requirements that need to be met before the case can be closed.
  • Legal research: The methods and procedures of research in legal matters, such as the regulations, and different approaches to analyses and source gathering, and the knowledge on how to adapt the research methodology to a specific case to obtain the required information.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of justice of the peace. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Show responsibility: Accept responsibility and be accountable for professional decisions of yourself or others as part of a job or one’s role.
  • Ensure sentence execution: Ensure, by contacting the parties involved and monitoring and handling progress and follow-up documentation, that legal sentences are followed as they were issued, such as ensuring that fines are paid, goods are confiscated or returned, and offenders are detained in the appropriate facility.
  • Moderate in negotiations: Oversee negotiations between two parties as a neutral witness to ensure that the negotiations occur in a friendly and productive manner, that a compromise is reached, and that everything is compliant with legal regulations.
  • Facilitate official agreement: Facilitate an official agreement between two disputing parties, ensuring that both parties agree on the resolution which has been decided on, as well as writing the necessary documents and ensuring both parties sign it.
  • Respond to enquiries: Respond to enquiries and requests for information from other organisations and members of the public.
  • Authenticate documents: Authenticate official documents, ensuring that their composition and the manner in which they were signed and officiated is compliant with regulations, and thus establishing the document’s authenticity and legal power.
  • Handle conflicts: Mediate in conflicts and tense situations by acting between parties, such as service users, important others like families, and institutions, striving to effect an agreement, reconcile, and resolve problems.
  • Apply knowledge of human behaviour: Practice principles related to group behaviour, trends in society, and influence of societal dynamics.
  • Hear witness accounts: Hear witness accounts during a court hearing or during an investigation to assess the significance of the account, its impact on the case under scrutiny or investigation, and to aid in reaching a conclusion.
  • Support witnesses: Support witnesses before, during, and after a court hearing to ensure their sense of security, that they are prepared mentally for the trial, and to aid them in the preparation of their stories or for the lawyers’ line of questioning.
  • Officiate weddings: Officiate weddings in a manner compliant to traditional and legal regulations, and to the couple’s wishes, ensuring that it is official by providing the necessary documentation and witnessing its signing, fulfilling the role of officiator.

ISCO group and title

2612 – Judges

  1. Justice of the peace – ESCO
  2. Featured image: By Irving Rusinow, Photographer (NARA record: 5307166) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain
Last updated on July 30, 2023