By Judge Steve Walker
With all the different types of Judges to include District Judges,
They actually go as far back to 1195 when King Richard the Lionhearted of England commissioned certain knights to preserve the peace in unruly areas of the country.
Those knights were responsible to the king for ensuring that the law of the land was upheld. The term they used was “keepers of the peace.”
An act approved in 1327 had actually referred to "good and lawful men" to be appointed in every county in the land to "guard the peace."
At that time they were referred to as “conservators of the peace” or wardens of the peace. The actual title "Justice of the Peace" derives from 1361, in the reign of King Edward III.
Justices of the Peace still use the power conferred or re-conferred on them in 1361 to contain unruly people and encourage them to behave. It was designated to serve as a preventative measure, intended to ensure that people thought likely to offend would not do so.
The Justices of the Peace conducted arraignments in all criminal cases, and tried misdemeanors and infractions and local ordinances as we do to this day.
Texas Justices of the Peace have jurisdiction over Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, and minor civil matters. They may also issue arrests or warrants, and may act as the coroner for counties that do not have a medical examiner. Justice of the Peace Courts may also function as small-claims courts.
Justices of the Peace, unlike most judges, are not required to be attorneys under the Texas Constitution of 1836. Of the 828 current Texas JPs, over 750 JPs are not lawyers to include two in
Under Section 12 of the 1836 Texas Constitution: “There shall be appointed, for each county, a convenient number of Justices of the Peace….to be elected by the qualified voters of the district or county, as Congress may direct.”