What is a Justice of the Peace or "JP" Judge?
The cases that a Justice Court can hear are limited in subject matter and award amount.
For example, civil case damages are capped at $20,000.00 (it used to be $10,000.00).
They hear small claims cases, landlord and tenant disputes, and truancy cases, as well as traffic and other class C misdemeanors.
In some counties (like Montgomery County), a justice of the peace may also conduct death inquests and perform magistrate duties.
There are many levels to Texas' court system. Each court has certain cases it is allowed to hear, and each serves an important part in the justice system.
A Justice of the Peace presides over a Justice Court, also known as a JP Court. Sometimes, the Justice Court is also referred to as the People's Court because it is a court where people can, and often do, represent themselves.
If you think of the courts as a set of stairs, the Justice Court is like the first step you can take. The costs for filing a case are lower, and the rules for evidence and procedure are more relaxed than in other courts.
It's a common misconception that Justice Court cases are simple cases. They are real cases involving real people. The outcomes of these cases can easily change peoples' lives.
It takes special skills to be able to listen and identify relevant facts to a case. And that ability, as well as a great amount of patience, is necessary to thrive as a Justice of the Peace.
Do you need
to be a lawyer
to be a
A license to practice law, or even a law degree, is not required to serve as a Justice of the Peace, but I believe having a licensed attorney serve as a JP judge is a big advantage.
Why? Think of it this way, any handy person can trade out a broken pipe in their home and "fix" the problem, but a plumber can identify why the pipe broke and whether other pipes around it need to be replaced, too. By electing a lawyer to serve as your Justice of the Peace, you are hiring a person who has undergone years of specialized training in how to look at complex legal problems and laws.
"By electing a lawyer
to serve as your
Justice of the Peace,
you are hiring a
person who has
undergone years of specialized training
in how to look
at complex legal
problems and laws."
As a licensed attorney, I have years of experience in listening to, and communicating with, people who are extremely stressed, angry, or hurt because of their legal issues.
Why wouldn't you want to use the experience of a specialist if
1) the specialist doesn't cost the community more money, and
2) is willing, able, and excited to serve?