Justices of the Peace and Notaries Public 

What does a Justice of the Peace (JP) do?

Justices of the Peace can have two sets of responsibilities – ministerial and judicial.
Ministerial duties, which all JPs can perform, include:

  • witnessing signatures on documents 
  • certifying copies of documents 
  • completing declarations (including statutory declarations), affidavits or affirmations

Judicial duties, which only JPs who have completed additional specific training can perform, include:

  • hearing summary offences 
  • conducting traffic courts 
  • hearing bail applications and requests for remand and adjournment 
  • issuing search warrants

All JP services are free.

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How do I find a Justice of the Peace?

There are a number of ways you can find a Justice of the Peace (JP). JPs are listed on the website of the Royal Federation of NZ Justices Associations and in the Yellow Pages.  

You could also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau - many bureaux volunteers are JPs and can provide JP services to members of the public. Many bureaux also hold JP clinics where members of the public can receive JP services at designated times. 

The Citizens Advice Bureau can also help you find a JP elsewhere – there may be a JP clinic (also called a JP Service Desk) at your local library or Community Law Centre. There may be a JP working in a business just down the road from you. And if you’re not an English-speaker, we may be able to find one who speaks your language. 

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How does somebody become a Justice of the Peace?

To become a JP you have to be nominated by your local Member of Parliament (MP) or by a list MP with the endorsement of the electorate MP. Nominations are considered by the Minister of Justice.

If you are interested in becoming a Justice of the Peace, then in the first instance you should get in touch with the Registrar of your local JP Association. They can provide you with more information and guidance on the process.

To be a Justice of the Peace you will need to have:

  • a genuine desire to serve your community;
  • a good standing in your community (this does not mean material wealth) and be regarded by others as a person of good sense, character and integrity;
  • an adequate standard of education.

The purpose of making someone a JP is not to honour them, it is to enable them to serve the public through the tasks a JP is empowered to perform. People are appointed to the role of a JP based on the needs of the local community. 

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When would I need a notary public rather than a Justice of the Peace?

You’ll generally need a notary public (also known as a notary or public notary) rather than a JP if you have legal documentation that is to be processed overseas.
A notary public is a lawyer authorised to do things like:

  • authenticating legal documents
  • witnessing signatures on legal documents 
  • collecting sworn statements
  • administering oaths
  • certifying copies of legal documents for use overseas
  • Preparing documents that will be used overseas, e.g. documents for adopting an overseas child.

Notaries public charge for their services, so if you require the services of a notary you can save money by ensuring that you bring everything you need to the appointment. It’s a good idea to check what you’ll need to bring when you make your appointment.

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How do I find a notary public?

Your local CAB can help you find a notary public in your area. You can also search the online register on the New Zealand Society of Notaries website or look in the Yellow Pages.

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How do I make a complaint about the service from a Justice of the Peace?

JPs must abide by a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct.
If you have a complaint about a JP and have not been able to resolve it by discussing the issue with them directly (or you are not comfortable with doing so) you can contact your local JP Association Registrar. If the JP in question is a member of their local association, the Association Registrar can handle your complaint.

If the JP association cannot resolve the problem, or if the JP is not a member of any JP association, the Association Registrar can refer your complaint to the Ministry of Justice (Office of Legal Counsel). The Registrar will refer complaints about serious misconduct (i.e. something that could result in the JP’s removal or suspension) to the Chief District Court Judge.

More about this is on the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations website.

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How do I make a complaint about the service from a notary public?

You can make a complaint about a notary public by contacting the Secretary of the New Zealand Society of Notaries