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justice of the peace

(JP) n. a judge who handles minor legal matters such as misdemeanors, small claims actions and traffic matters in "justice courts." Dating back to early English common law, "JPs" were very common up to the 1950s, but they now exist primarily in rural "justice districts" from which it is unreasonable for the public to travel to the county seat for trials of minor matters. In Nevada justices of the peace are lucrative jobs since they perform many of the marriages of elopers from other states, as Nevada has no waiting period from license to wedding. A justice of the peace is usually an attorney, but some states still allow laypersons to qualify by taking a test.


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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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