Learn more about the role of Justice of the Peace and about the Justices listed on findaJP.com below. Then visit the related link for more details.
A Little Bit of History
The role of Justices of the Peace in England goes back to the twelfth century, when the first of a succession of kings appointed wealthy landowners to enforce laws in their counties. Today JPs are no longer restricted to the upper classes. In the democratic societies that emerged from those territories originally colonized by English émigrés — Canada, Australia and the U.S. – JPs are still plying their trade, though not in every state.
Why Choose a JP for Your Ceremony?
America is a religious country, yet many couples decide to have a civil ceremony when they get married. Some of the reasons that may lead to the decision to choose a Justice of the Peace rather than a member of the clergy for their wedding officiant include:
- An interfaith couple might find it difficult to locate clergy willing to participate in an interfaith ceremony.
- The couple might feel that only the blessings of the state are needed to cement their union, not a religious entity.
- The couple might prefer a non-denominational setting for their ceremony rather than a church, mosque or synagogue.
- The couple might prefer a ceremony that reflects their own views about marriage rather than that of a particular religion.
- Fearing rejection by a clergy person, a gay couple might feel more comfortable seeking a Justice of the Peace.
JPs do More than Marry People!
In the U.S., every state had a Justice of the Peace system at one time or another. Duties varied from state to state, and they still do — in states that still have JPs. Some responsibilities, however, are shared by JPs in most states:
- The one thing JPs from nearly all states can do (and the reason we’re discussing them here) is officiate at marriage ceremonies. (The glaring exception to the rule is Rhode Island.) JPs are standing in for the state when they join two people in marriage. When a JP signs the marriage license, s/he is attesting to the legality of the union.
- JPs are authorized to witness signatures and oaths, take depositions and acknowledgements, and administer oaths and affirmations.
- Depositions. A deposition is the taking of testimony under oath for use in civil action or probate court proceedings. In this context, a JP may also issue a subpoena to ensure that the witness appears at the deposition.
- Oaths and Affirmations. An oath is an oral declaration of responsibility made by a person assuming a role. The person then signs an affidavit, witnessed by the JP, attesting to the truth of the oath. (An affirmation, using words other than “swear” and “so help you God,” may be administered instead.)
- In states where they have judicial duties (and they don’t in New England), JPs operate at the lowest court level, handling misdemeanors and minor financial disputes.
Only members of the Justice of the Peace Association are listed on the pages of findaJP.com. Members are authorized marriage officiants in their state who regard their role joining couples in matrimony as a serious undertaking. JPus members epitomize professionalism, reliability and integrity in their dealings with clients and always act in their clients’ best interests. Depending upon the state in which they serve, members are authorized to perform other duties as well. Most members hold the official title of Justice of the Peace in their state. But in some states, the role of civil marriage officiant is filled by appointees to another position, such as notary. In those states, Association members hold a title different from Justice of the Peace and meet all other requirements for membership.