30 states allow for at least some of their judges to serve without benefit of a law degree (a 31st, Connecticut, allows non-attorney Probate Judges in office on January 4, 2011 to remain and be reelected.) In many instances there is no education requirement whatsoever; this is the case in New York’s approximately 1300 Town & Village Justice Courts which possess powers over vehicle and traffic matters, small claims, evictions, civil matters and criminal offenses.
AB 8336 would require all town and village court judges have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. “Towns of the first class” (effectively towns over 10,000) and villages with more than 10,000 people could then opt to require a law degree/admission to practice law in New York. Currently serving town/village judges would be exempted from the new educational requirements.
Several other bills in the last 4 years have sought to restructure the entire town/village court system and each included similar educational mandates. AB 10945 of 2009, AB 5647 of 2011, and AB 5338 of 2013 all included a provision that town/village judges should have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
So far, none of the bills have advanced out of committee.