For years lawyers and judges have frowned at Utah's justice of the peace system. JPs, usually legal laymen without law degrees, were seen as second-class members of the judicial system.

Many changes have been made in the justice-of-the-peace system the past several years, and now a bill that its sponsors say will be the last step is ready for consideration.SB10 by Sen. K.S. Cornaby, R-Salt Lake, a Harvard-trained attorney, will require that all JPs be appointed, that they all have at least a high school diploma and that JP cases must be heard in public facilities, not a JP's home.

Currently, there are city and county JPs. City JPs are appointed by their city council, but county JPs are elected.

Ron Gibson, deputy state court administrator, told a Senate committee Wednesday that 25 of the current 144 justices of the peace don't have high school diplomas. Training courses conducted for JPs by the State Court Administrator's Office show some JPs are "nearly illiterate" and have difficulty understanding even simple legal documents, he said.

SB10 was approved by the committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.