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What Is A Justice Of The Peace And What Do They Do?

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When I called George Hunter to ask if he would be willing to chat about his day-to-day responsibilities as a justice of the peace, he responded: “I’d tell you whatever you like, ma’am, but I’m on my way to a wedding right now. That’s really what I do, a lot of weddings.”

Currently, there are three justices of the peace in Jefferson County, each representing a magisterial district: Hunter, who's a Republican, Democrat Samuel Whitlow Jr. and Gary Fields, also a Democrat.

Whitlow did not not file for re-election in District 3; Democrat Angela D. Hollingsworth is running unopposed in that district.

Hunter also didn't run for re-election in magisterial District 1. Two candidates, Democrat Mera Corlett and Republican Shelly Cormney are vying for that position.

Fields is running unopposed in District 2.

“Other counties in Kentucky have magistrates who serve basically as the court,” Fields said. “But in Jefferson County, because we got Metro Government and the council people, my only responsibility is to perform wedding ceremonies. Basically I’m the civil authority to perform wedding ceremonies.”

It’s a position that’s older than the state itself; the office of justice of the peace was established in Kentucky while it was still a part of Virginia. These early justices were appointed, and the first legislature after Kentucky achieved statehood in 1792 continued the practice of appointing justices.

Based on the name it may sound like justices of the peace would need some kind of legal training, but candidates only have to meet a handful of qualifications to run: at the time of election, candidates must be at least 24 years of age; be a citizen of Kentucky; have resided in the state for two years and have lived one year preceding their election in the county and district in which they are a candidate.

Candidates are elected to four-year terms; the last election was held in 2014.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.