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Justice of the Peace

Dick Smith General Entry

Under the Constitution of the Republic of Texas and the constitutions of 1845 and 1861, two justices of the peace were elected biennially from each militia captain's precinct. The Constitution of 1866 lengthened the term to four years. The Constitution of 1869 provided for five justices of the peace elected from precincts for four-year terms. The Constitution of 1876 provided that every Texas county was to be divided into not less than four nor more than eight justice of the peace precincts and that a justice of the peace be elected biennially from each such precinct. If a precinct includes a city of 8,000 or more, a second justice of the peace is elected. A constitutional amendment in 1954 extended the term of office to four years. The main duties of the justices of the peace are to preside over the justice court and to act as coroner; he may also conduct marriage ceremonies.

Guide to Texas Laws for County Officials (Austin: Texas Department of Community Affairs, 1988). Dick Smith, The Development of Local Government in Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1938).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Courts and Judiciary

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dick Smith, “Justice of the Peace,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 13, 2020