General Information on Justices of the Peace
What is a Justice of the Peace?
A Justice of the Peace is classified as a judicial officer under Chapter III of the Massachusetts Constitution. Pursuant to Chapter II, Article IX of the Constitution, Justices of the Peace are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Executive Council. The Constitution sets the term for a Justice of the Peace at seven years.
What does a Justice of the Peace do?
Most individuals seek a commission in order to solemize marriages. The Governor must specifically designate Justices of the Peace with this power. For more information, please see the Summary of Duties page.
Is there a limit on the number of Justices of the Peace with the power to solemnize marriages that may be appointed?
Yes. Massachusetts General Laws, c.207 § 39 limits the number of Justices of the Peace the Governor may designate to solemnize marriages to one for every five thousand inhabitants of any municipality. A town clerk who is also commissioned as a Justice of the Peace may solemnize marriages without a special designation, and therefore does not count towards the statutory limit.
How do I become a Justice of the Peace?
If you wish to become a Justice of the Peace with the power to solemnize marriages, please determine whether there are vacanies in your municipality (see question 5 for additional information). If there is a vacancy, please submit an application for the Governor's consideration. Applications are available online.
Justices of the Peace are responsible for complying with the laws applicable to their position. As such, each applicant should be familiar with the relevant regulations set forth in the Massachusetts General Laws.
Please note: If you are seeking the power to solemnize marriages because you have been asked by a friend or family members to solemize their marriage, you do not need to be a Justice of the Peace. You can obtain a one-day marriage designation which authorizes you to formalize one wedding.
Where can I find information on Justice of the Peace vacancies in my city or town?
The Secretary of the Commonwealth maintains the Justice of the Peace records and can tell you whether there is a vacancy in your city or town. You may contact them at 617-727-2836.