For Great Justice

My name is Jessamyn West. I was elected Justice of the Peace in Randolph Vermont on November 6, 2012. My term started February 1st, 2013 and lasts for three years. Do you need a Vermont JP?

More information on what a VT Justice of the Peace does (pdf)

Jan 30
I went to my first meeting of the Board of Civil Authority. I am not official yet but this was just to get a feel for what happens. I have homework: read this stuff. Apparently I am the only person in the entire world who does not know the guy who runs the meeting. There were no introductions. All they did was looked at the voter registrations to make sure they all looked kosher and chose slots for who would staff the polls for the school budget vote for next week. I offered to be the “Democrat” who would go deliver ballots to folks who needed one brought to their home since you need one person from each party. It was a fun and short meeting. I was the youngest one there by at least ten years.

I went to my first meeting of the Board of Civil Authority. I am not official yet but this was just to get a feel for what happens. I have homework: read this stuff. Apparently I am the only person in the entire world who does not know the guy who runs the meeting. There were no introductions. All they did was looked at the voter registrations to make sure they all looked kosher and chose slots for who would staff the polls for the school budget vote for next week. I offered to be the “Democrat” who would go deliver ballots to folks who needed one brought to their home since you need one person from each party. It was a fun and short meeting. I was the youngest one there by at least ten years.


Jan 29
Welcome aboard! Bring armor. The Town Clerk’s response to me when I dropped off my paperwork and asked if there was anything else I needed to know before the Board of Civil Authority meeting tomorrow.

Jan 26
Sworn in! Since my first day on the job is February 1st and I have a Board of Civil Authority meeting on Wednesday, I figured I should get this all taken care of. This is my friend (and also Town Moderator and lawyer) Kelly Green who swore me in. You have the option of swearing in on a bible or just “under penalty of perjury” I chose the latter and we filled out some paperwork and once I submit it to the Town Clerk I’ll be official come February first. There is a long and venerable tradition of people being sworn in at night on an ad hoc basis in Vermont.

Sworn in! Since my first day on the job is February 1st and I have a Board of Civil Authority meeting on Wednesday, I figured I should get this all taken care of. This is my friend (and also Town Moderator and lawyer) Kelly Green who swore me in. You have the option of swearing in on a bible or just “under penalty of perjury” I chose the latter and we filled out some paperwork and once I submit it to the Town Clerk I’ll be official come February first. There is a long and venerable tradition of people being sworn in at night on an ad hoc basis in Vermont.


Jan 1

Wishing you great peace and great justice in 2013

I’m going to dial it back a little bit in 2013. The daily posts have been great fun but the pickings are slim until I actually start my post in February (and maybe even after that). Feel free to send on suggested links/images to me, my first name at the gmail machine.


Dec 31

frontier justice(s)

image

So San Diego was a place before it was a place in the United States. Most people know this What I did not know was how the governmental system worked in places that were sort of becoming part of the US and sort of part of another country. A peek into the digital archives of the University of Southern California finds this neat letter (original written in Spanish but with a translation written in English afterwards) where the JP of San Diego in 1836 writes to the folks in Los Angeles to ask why they’re incommunicado. Based on this Wikipedia page, I believe the translation of the JPs name is wrong and the letter is actually from Santiago Argüello the last full-time Commandant of the area and the second Justice of the Peace (Juez de Paz).


Dec 30
Aug. 18 James A. Wickersham diary, 1900. [Photo by James Wickersham in Rampart Alaska. Amusingly additional notes seem to imply that while C. H. Knapp called himself the US Commissioner, he was never officially appointed to that position.]
Signs in the photo read
Edmund D. Wiggin,  Register US Land Office,  Groceries. C. H. Knapp,  US Commissioner,  Justice of the Peace.  U.S. Land Office.

Aug. 18 James A. Wickersham diary, 1900. [Photo by James Wickersham in Rampart Alaska. Amusingly additional notes seem to imply that while C. H. Knapp called himself the US Commissioner, he was never officially appointed to that position.]

Signs in the photo read

Edmund D. Wiggin,
Register US Land Office,
Groceries.
C. H. Knapp,
US Commissioner,
Justice of the Peace.
U.S. Land Office.


Dec 29
JPs sometimes have to make judgment calls on unorthodox methods of providing bona fides. The National Archives shares this story of a woman in Connecticut, Asenath Goodale, who successfully used her daughter’s sampler as proof of her marriage before Justice of the Peace R. F. Barnard in order to receive a widow’s pension in the early 1800’s.

JPs sometimes have to make judgment calls on unorthodox methods of providing bona fides. The National Archives shares this story of a woman in Connecticut, Asenath Goodale, who successfully used her daughter’s sampler as proof of her marriage before Justice of the Peace R. F. Barnard in order to receive a widow’s pension in the early 1800’s.


Dec 28

Certificates of Freedom

One of the historical jobs Justices of the Peace would sometimes do in the course of their duties was to issue certificates of freedom. These were papers that black people would have to carry on them in many states to ensure that they would not be harassed as runaway slaves. Since this was pre-photography in many cases, there would be descriptions of the people carrying the papers to make sure that they were not using someone else’s certificate of freedom. Here is some more description of the process.


Dec 27
Justice of the Peace and Constables Association entry in Governor Fuller Warren’s inaugural parade photograph by Forrest Granger, 1949.

Justice of the Peace and Constables Association entry in Governor Fuller Warren’s inaugural parade photograph by Forrest Granger, 1949.


Dec 26

quirky little not-justice stuff

image

So some days people send me things for this blog and other times I just do some idle Googling while things are slow at MetaFilter. So I look for things like the phrase “Justice of the peace” juxtaposed with words like crazy, funny, weird, interesting, etc.

I’m not even sure what I was looking for the other day when I found this Wikipedia page about Conservators of the Peace. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, this is a similar office to JPs but with a few miscellaneous other bits to it. I had never heard of this before and was surprised. After doing some more digging—check the citations at the end of the Wikipedia articles, folks!—it seems that the article is based almost entirely on one guy’s “research" (pdf, but it’s basically the same as the Wikipedia article) a guy whose job just happens to be running training classes for Virginia CPsand who this guy has a sort of checkered past with the whole CP thing but appears to be an attorney who defends gun cases. Huh. Here’s more on the odd Virginia Conservator of the Peace designation which the Washington Post calls “archaic.”

So, even though the research document is legit and has real citations and all the rest, the fact that there’s a Wikipedia article which basically cribs from it is not at all cool from a Wikipedia standpoint. And I was partway in to going down the path to formally objecting to all of this when I realized that I’d started out doing something else and that I would rather be doing that something else, but I’m leaving a note here for later about it. Neat, huh?