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 two years. Do you need a Vermont JP?

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

Feb 1

voting, now and then

The JP job has a lot more to do with voting than marrying. That is, if you don’t want to, you don’t really have to marry anyone, but part of the gig is checking voter registrations, being present at the polls, delivering ballots to people who can’t be at the polls, and counting write-in votes.

I’ve been digging through the pile of paperwork I got at the Board of Civil Authority meeting (a board I was not on when I went, but I am on now) and it’s mostly straightforward stuff. I’m surprised, as always, just how much of this stuff really is codified and written down. Only sort of related, I found this book on Open Library that talks about how soldiers voted when they were off fighting the Civil War. Sort of interesting if you’re nerdy about this sort of thing. If you, too, are interested check out Voting in the Field, a forgotten chapter of the Civil War.


It’s official!

Since it is now February I am now a Justice of the Peace. Feels mostly the same so far. I’ve amended the header text on this blog. I can now marry anyone who wants to be married in the State of Vermont. From the Board of Civil Authority meeting last night it appears that the majority of my time will be spent counting write-in ballots after Town Meeting next month.


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.