The DL On JPs

There are no qualifications for being named a Justice of the Peace.  Nor do you have to pay a fee to become a JP.

It’s the perfect job, laughs Saul Haffner.

The retired Westporter should know.  He’s a JP himself — and perhaps the country’s foremost expert on that unique position.

“In the beginning of time,” Saul says — back when he worked for the Congregation of Humanistic Judaism, not 1362 (the first time time “Justice of the Peace” appeared in English law) — he fielded calls from couples looking for rabbis to perform interfaith weddings.  They were hard to find — so Saul vowed that when he retired, he would become a JP and do those ceremonies.

Fun fact:  Every Connecticut town is allocated a certain number of JPs, based on the number of registered voters.  Westport has 60 — equally divided between Democrats, Republicans and independents.

After becoming a Justice of the Peace in 2001, Saul wondered how anyone would find him.  He looked around for a national JP organization.  There was none.  So he and his wife formed one. 

Their website — JPUS.org — is now the go-to source for JPs around the country.  The site  offers a registry (JPs can include their political affiliation, ethnicity, religion and languages spoken); resources and guides for personalizing weddings; an interactive forum (with topics like “code of ethics,” “same-sex ceremonies” and “how the economy is affecting the JP business”), and discounts on JP merchandise (certificates, embossing seals, chuppas, etc.).

Saul Haffner (left) and a newly married couple on Compo Beach

Saul Haffner (left) and a newly married couple on Compo Beach

Saul performs 10 or so weddings a year.  That’s low, he admits.  But the JP does not want to compete with members of his own JP association.

Saul’s motto is “Your wedding, your way.”  He’s married couples on motorcycles, on a boat that sailed into the sunset (Saul returned to shore via rowboat), and in Scottish clothing (the bride and groom gave Saul a kilt). 

“Weddings are such a happy occasion,” he says.  “I come away from each one on a real high.”

Not bad for a job with no requirements, no entry fees, and no experience needed.

3 responses to “The DL On JPs

  1. Chef and I were lucky enough to stumble across Saul for our wedding. He is truly one of the great people of our town. He made our ceremony truly beautiful. Thanks Saul for your time. Thanks Dan for putting the spotlight on another overlooked Westporter.

  2. As a JP myself I simply say “thank you” to Saul for his leadership making his organization available to all JPs as well as a place for everybody to find a JP. And yes, I also get a high with each wedding I perform.

  3. Lisa Marie Alter

    I was privileged to photograph a wedding performed by another one of the “truly great people of our town” and JP: Tom Feeley. He married a beautiful young couple here at Compo Beach last Saturday…the ceremony was nothing less than magical…between the dappled sunlight, the endless blue sea, the buoyant happiness & love amongst the wedding party, and Tom’s warmth, attentiveness and ever-present sense of humor. I highly recommend him for your “wedding needs.” 😉