The Office of Justice of the Peace was established in 1362 by King Edward III of England. It is credited with completing the centralization of government in England and is an integral part of the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence.
As the American colonies were being founded, one of the first offices established by the King was that of Justice of the Peace to establish and maintain order. The Americanized Justice of the Peace Court expanded to include taking acknowledgements, performing marriages and taking depositions. The colonial justice was a person of recognized standing.
Grass Roots Court
When Texas became a republic, this grass roots court was quickly instituted. With the sparse population and the need for decentralized government, the Justice of the Peace became an integral part of the government. The Republic's Constitution of 1836 specified that a "convenient number of Justices of the Peace" were to be elected in each county by qualified voters for two-year terms. Then, in the 1876 Constitution of the State of Texas, Article Five, Section One, the office of Justice of the Peace was again established as a court with judicial power.