Justice of the Peace Court
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Justice of the Peace Court
in several capitalist countries, the lowest court of the judicial system. As courts of original jurisdiction justice of the peace courts hear cases concerning minor crimes, conduct preliminary inquests in more important criminal cases, and try minor cases. First established in England in the 14th century, justice of the peace courts were created in North America in the 17th century, in France in the late 18th century (abolished in 1959), and in Russia in the second half of the 19th century.
As of Jan. 1, 1972, only justices of the peace of magistrates’ courts have continued to function in Great Britain; formerly courts of quarter sessions were held by justices of the peace in counties and boroughs. Justices of the peace sit in petty sessional courts (of not more than seven judges) and in instances prescribed by law they individually try minor criminal and civil cases. The decisions of justices of the peace and petty sessions may be appealed to the queen’s bench division of the High Court of Great Britain. Justices of the peace are appointed for life by the lord chancellor and are usually mayors and heads of local governing bodies. Under a law enacted in 1949 they may hold office until the age of 75. In 1972 there were 18,000 justices of the peace in Great Britain. There are age, property, and other qualifications for holding office. Because justices of the peace are not salaried, holding the office has become a privilege of the well-to-do classes.
In the USA justice of the peace courts are the lowest courts and have limited jurisdiction. They are generally found only in rural areas. Justices of the peace are either popularly elected or chosen by state legislatures, although in some states they are appointed by the governor. The term of office ranges from two to six years. In most states the disputing parties pay the justice of the peace, the amount of the fee depending on the amount of the penalty imposed, the cost of the suit, or the lawyer’s fee. In some states justices of the peace receive salaries.
In prerevolutionary Russia justice of the peace courts were established in 1864 as part of the legal reform of 1864 and consisted of district justices of the peace and an assembly of justices of the peace having appellate jurisdiction. The district justices of the peace had original jurisdiction over civil cases involving suits of up to 500 (later 1,000) rubles and certain criminal cases. Justices of the peace were elected for a three-year term by zemstvo assemblies in rural districts and by city councils in the cities. Candidates for office had to own real property worth at least 3,000 rubles and to meet a number of other qualifications. In 1889 the justice of the peace courts were abolished and their jurisdiction transferred to zemskie nachal’niki (land captains) in the rural districts and to municipal courts in the cities. In 1912 a law was enacted restoring the justice of the peace courts, but the law was not fully implemented.
D. D. AVERIN