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Professor George Pavlich
University of Alberta

Justices of the Peace played an important role in creating accusatory gateways to criminal justice as colonial law took form in various 19th century contexts. This paper analyses that role by way of an example; namely, how the Dominion of Canada authorized JPs to assert criminal jurisdiction over what is today called Alberta, in the decade following the NWMP’s arrival in 1874. Through an analysis of contemporary Handbooks and Guides for Justices of the Peace, as well as examples of preliminary examinations, I explore their magisterial role as: receiving information that crimes had taken place; naming accusers and accused in uniform ways; using legal idioms of transcription; and deciding on whether to send — either though summary trials or preliminary investigations — the accused to further reaches of criminal justice networks. The paper concludes by reflecting on the legacy of JPs in creating the foundations of the massive criminal justice institutions that confront us today.

George Pavlich holds a Canada Research Chair in Social Theory, Culture, and Law and is professor of Law and Sociology at the University of Alberta, Canada. His books include Justice Fragmented: Mediating Community Disputes under Postmodern Conditions, Critique and Radical Discourses on Crime, Governing Paradoxes of Restorative Justice, Law and Society Redefined, and Criminal Accusation. He is a co-editor of Sociology for the Asking; Questioning Sociology (3 editions); After Sovereignty; Governance and Regulation in Social Life; Rethinking Law, Society, and Governance: Foucault’s Bequest; Accusation: Creating Criminal; and Entryways to Criminal Justice. He is currently working on a research project outlining a theory of criminal accusation in nineteenth century criminal justice in western Canada.

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