While Justice Courts are ’state courts’ by virtue of being part of the judicial branch of state government, they are not part of the Oregon Judicial Department. Oregon Justice Courts are created and their powers vested under Article VII (Amended) of the Oregon Constitution, their organization and jurisdiction is set forth in ORS Chapter 51. Although all justice courts in Oregon are empowered by the same constitutional and statutory authority, the function and identity of each court tends to be formed by the needs and values of the county or district in which they operate.
Criminal jurisdiction in Oregon’s justice courts extends to all offenses that are committed or triable in their respective counties, except the trial of any felony; such jurisdiction is concurrent with jurisdiction that may be exercised by a circuit court or a municipal court. Civil jurisdiction in a justice court includes actions at law for the recovery of money, damages, personal property and penalties or forfeitures where the amount or value claimed does not exceed $10,000.
Justice of the Peace
A Justice of the Peace, or ’JP’, is elected to a six-year term and must be a resident of, or in instances where the Justice of the Peace is an attorney, have a principal office in, the Justice of the Peace district in which the Justice Court is located. The office of Justice of the Peace in Oregon is somewhat unique in that a JP is both a state court judge and a county elected official.
FROM the bench
The role of a local court is to provide access to judicial services, to protect citizen’s state and federal constitutional rights, and to enforce the rule of law for the protection of society. As Grant County’s Justice of the Peace, it is my duty to ensure each individual’s right to be heard, to uphold and apply the law fairly and impartially, without bias or prejudice and to continue the legacy of this historic court and the institution of local court system. - Hon. Kathy Stinnett
In the United States, the office of Justice of the Peace is as old as the colonies established on the Atlantic coast by English settlers in the 17th Century. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, served as Justice of the Peace in colonial Virginia as did the first President of the United States, George Washington.
In the year 1818, the ’Oregon Country,’ which extended from California to Alaska and from the Rocky Mountain summit to the Pacific Ocean, became jointly administered by Great Britain and the United States. Justices of the peace were constituted in the Oregon Country first by an act of Parliament, then by a group of Methodist missionaries and finally by territorial statutes and the original statutes enacted by the Oregon Legislature.