Although elected by a town, justices of the peace are actually county officers. 17 V.S.A. § 2103(10). For more information, see our Justice of the Peace Handbook. The duties of justices of the peace can fall into five categories of responsibilities:
a. Elections. Justices of the peace are members of the board of civil authority (BCA). Members of the BCA serve as election officials at town elections by Australian ballot and statewide elections. Justices also are responsible for delivering absentee ballots to voters at election time.
b. Tax Abatement and Appeals. Justices of the peace sit as members of the town board for abatement of taxes to determine whether a taxpayer’s tax obligation should be forgiven under certain circumstances. Justices of the peace also serve an important role in the town’s tax appeal process. As a member of the board of civil authority, justices sit to hear and decide appeals when citizens do not agree with the final decision of the listers.
c. Marriages and Civil Unions. Justices of the peace may also solemnize marriages and may certify civil unions in Vermont.
d. Oaths and Notary. Justices of the peace may also administer oaths in all cases where an oath is required, unless a specific law makes a different provision. A justice of the peace is a notary public ex officio and has all the acknowledgment powers of a notary public. However, the justice of the peace must file with the county clerk in order to act as a notary public (but the fee is waived).
e. Magistrate. Justices of the peace may also serve as a magistrate when so commissioned by the Supreme Court.