The Justice of the Peace

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Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
Historically, the JP status as judge was not well established in the law. The JP was in a category akin to a probation officer or clerk of the court. Now there is no doubt that the JP is a judge. Under the Charter , this status means that the JP, just like the more senior judges, is entitled to complete physical and financial independence from government and police. Justices of the Peace are appointed in the same manner as Provincial Court Judges. The procedures for consultation, if any, with the bench, the bar and the public vary by province. The provincial cabinet ultimately makes the appointments, on the basis of merit. After that point, most legislation transfers supervision of the JP's to the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and ultimately the provincial Judicial Council. The JP is bound by the same ethical rules of conduct that govern all other judges. The powers of the JP are set out in legislation, including the federal Criminal Code. Since the busiest division of provincial court deals with crime, most JP's have been dedicated to serving in that area of the law. We have seen traffic court migrate to the less expensive and more flexible JP model to the point today where the JP has almost completely replaced the provincial court judge in traffic court. We can expect in the future that efficiency-conscious provincial governments may increase the scope of JP work on the civil side. An example may be to use the JP in mediation of small claims disputes, dealing with adjournments and other interim applications and even to preside over small claims trials.
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow Magazine, 06/28/2010.
Justices of the peace
Bowal, Peter, "The Justice of the Peace", Law Now, Feb/Mar 2002, Vol. 26, Iss. 4; pg. 44.