Ward

The only units of government at the ward level are the justices of the peace and the constables. Their positions were created by the Louisiana Constitution as part of the judicial system.  Wards are political subdivisions of the parish.

Justices of the peace and
constables are elected by voters in the wards as the judicial authorities of a ward.  Voters within the city of Lafayette do not elect ward officials (previous Wards 3 and 10).  The city of Lafayette is served by the City Marshall and City Court instead.  

Today there are 8 wards--Ward 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.  Ward 6 elects  two justices of the peace and two constables and the

Lafayette Wards—Click for a larger image.
other wards elect one of each. Cases are  heard in the ward where the defendant resides.  Appeals are heard by the 15th Judicial Court. 

Justices of the peace and constables handle particular legal issues and may serve across geographical boundaries for an issue in some cases.  Examples include grass cutting and litter court violations.  One justice of the peace and one constable enforce those for the parish. Louisiana law gives justices of the peace and constables parish-wide jurisdiction over littering and trash dumping.

Qualifications for candidacy for election as a justice of the peace or a constable include:

  • good moral character
  • a  qualified voter
  • a resident of the ward from which elected
  • able to read and write the English language correctly
  • a high school diploma or its equivalent (BESE Board standards)
  •  (since 2008) under the age of 70 at time of qualification.   

Term of office is six years, with no term limit.  Justices of the peace and constables are part-time jobs.

A justice of the peace or a constable can be removed by the Attorney General or the state Supreme Court, following hearings by the Judicial Board upon complaints of malfeasance in office. Both the justice of the peace and the constable file annual financial statements with the state auditors.


Justices of the Peace

Justices of the peace particularly conduct civil marriages, civil suits where the amount in dispute is no more than $5,000 and evictions. The justice of the peace takes depositions, and can refer to arbitration if both parties agree. It is the responsibility of the justice of the peace to be sure all pertinent documents have been presented and recorded before hearing a case.  A justice of the peace may not handle cases in which a title to real estate is involved, when any government is a defendant, or succession or probate matters, or criminal offenses.  Justices of the peace do not issue restraining orders, handle family law cases, or any class action suits.

The justice of the peace conducts the Justice of the Peace Court with the constable present. Often the court is held in the police or fire department headquarters.
  The benefits of the Justice of the Peace Court are lower costs, less time, and a simpler process.

 Although defendants may be represented by an attorney, there is no professional credential or certification required to be a justice of the peace. References are civil law books: the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedures, the Revised Statutes of the Louisiana Legislature, rulings of the Attorney General, the Justice Court Manual and pertinent local ordinances.  On-the-job training is provided yearly by the state.  Local and state professional associations provide training, among them the Louisiana Justice of the Peace and Constables Association. The Attorney General's office also provides professional services at the regional level.

The fees are set for each type of case by the state and collected by the justice of the peace.   A portion of the total fees are paid by the justice of the peace to the constable. Each of them files an audit annually with the state showing revenue and expenses. A stipend from Lafayette Consolidated Government supplements the set salary paid by the state to the justice of the peace.  Justice of the Peace salary supplements are part of the Lafayette Consolidated Government budget which must be approved by the City-Parish Council.


Constables

Constables serve citations ordered by the justice of the peace court, and act as the enforcement officer of evictions and garnishments order by the court. A newly elected constable must attend the first available training course of the Attorney’s General’s Office, and once a year after. The Justice Court Manual serves as a reference for constables. 

Constables also enforce and prosecution of litter violations through the parish litter court. 

The police may be called to assist in keeping order.

Comments