by KAREN LAGRANGE COX
When thinking of a Justice of the Peace, one may immediately think of someone who can legally perform a marriage ceremony. In speaking with Margaret Poirier Hebert, there is more to being a Justice of the Peace than being a wedding officiant.
Hebert is in her first term as Justice of the Peace (JP) which began in January 2021. She represents Ward 9 which includes the city limits of Youngsville and the unincorporated areas of Youngsville in Lafayette Parish. A term for a JP is six years. Additionally, she has been a Notary Public since before taking office as JP.
A JP becomes an Ex-Officio Notary as long as they hold the JP position as opposed to a regular Notary Public who is a notary for life.
In Lafayette Parish, a JP is classified as a part-time employee of both Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) and the State of Louisiana. Although a JP is a part-time employee of LCG, they are not required to follow LCG’s Policies and Procedures Manual, according to Hebert.
Compensation for a JP is provided by two entities, with LCG and the State each contributing a portion. To simplify the payment process, the State sends its portion directly to LCG, which combines its portion and pays the JP the combined annual salary $12,486.
JPs are allowed to charge fees on eviction and small claim lawsuits they handle and on weddings they officiate. Examples of items they can charge fees on include a new case, subpoena, warrants of possession (regarding an eviction), serving judgments, and certified copies. JPs will receive a slight increase in payment effective August 1, 2023, per Louisiana Revised Statute RS 13:2590.
Services by a Justice of the Peace
- Issue court orders to the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue new titles for movables such as cars, motorcycles, trailers, boat trailers, and mobile homes “as a last resort”. It would go through the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for boats.
- Evictions due to non-payment of rent, occupants not listed on the least agreement, conduct prohibited by the lease, such as having pets, and illegal activity. Hebert works with the Constable for Ward 9, Chad Comeaux, on all activities, except the issuance of titles. Comeaux serves documents and executes the eviction while Hebert prepares and records the legal documents for the lawsuits. Comeaux also serves documents and subpoenas to appear in court. She notes they do not do evictions related to foreclosures / non-payment of mortgages which are handled through the district court, however they do perform evictions on properties that have been sold at Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Sale. Evictions that she handles are done in her Justice Court.
- Prepare subpoenas.
- Handle small claim court cases that are five-thousand dollars and under.
- A tenant who has not been refunded their rent deposit. The refund of rent deposits is due within one month from when a tenant returns the keys to the landlord. According to Hebert, if the tenant wins their case, they are entitled to recover up to $300 or twice the amount of their deposit, whichever is greater.
- Examples of situations for a small claims court include a contractor not completing the work they were hired to do, non-repayment of a loan by a friend, automobile accidents and insurance disagreements, promissory notes, and garnishments (that are not child support related).
- A JP can officiate weddings. Hebert can officiate a wedding in her office or offsite anywhere in Louisiana.
- Hebert performed four weddings in one day, the most she ever did in a day. The date of these weddings was February 22, 2022 (02-22-22).
Hebert said there are services a JP can opt out of performing. For example, some JPs may choose not to perform marriage ceremonies. Some may decide not to issue arrest warrants; if they decide to issue arrest warrants, they must be trained and take a class on it. If they decide not to do something, for example, same-sex marriages, they cannot do some and not others. It is all or none. JP Hebert performs all duties allowed by law, except arrest warrants.
Louisiana Revised Statute
The following are statutes from the Louisiana Revised Statutes (LA RS) related to the role of a Justice of the Peace.
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure
The following are articles from the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure (LA CPP) which are related to the role of a Justice of the Peace.
This article was first published on Thursday, June 29, 2023; however, it was rescinded the same day to update it for clarification on some items.