Justice of the Peace Juanita Bishop sworn in for 4th term 

PRESIDIO — On New Year’s Day, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Juanita Bishop was sworn in for her fourth consecutive term. Bishop was first appointed to the job in 2009, and weathered four elections in stride — in the 2022 midterm elections, she was elected with just over 60% of the vote. 

As justice of the peace, Bishop hears lower-level criminal and civil cases, magistrates people into county jail, appoints juries and much more. It’s a 24/7 job — Bishop needs to be on call to process people through the local criminal justice system at any hour of the day or night. 

Bishop’s jurisdiction is enormous. While the majority of her constituents live in the city of Presidio, she oversees everything south of Elephant Rock on U.S.-67, from Candelaria to the county line in Lajitas. 

One of the toughest parts of her job is performing death inquests — in her case, deciding whether or not a deceased individual needs an autopsy to determine their cause of death. Bishop then will notify the family of the deceased that their loved one has passed away. 

It’s an emotionally grueling process, and can sometimes be physically grueling as well — Bishop needs to travel to wherever the individual passed away, which sometimes requires visiting some of the most remote reaches of her jurisdiction. “I’ve gotten in a Huey helicopter, I’ve gone horseback riding, I’ve gotten in an ATV — a little bit of everything,” she said. 

On the lighter side, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is helping young people with citations turn things around. Instead of issuing fines, she prefers connecting them with nonprofits and the City of Presidio for community service. “I like making them responsible for their citations — that way the parents don’t feel like they’re getting punished,” she explained. 

Bishop has a background in criminal justice and political science from Sul Ross State University. The justice of the peace is an elected position that technically doesn’t require a legal background, but she says it helps with the job. “You’ve got to be able to interpret the law, and when cases come up to court, to understand them,” she said. 

Even with 13 years of experience on the books, she’s still learning new things and facing new challenges with each term. On her personal docket for this year: getting security cameras installed in her office. She’s had a number of bad experiences with folks who show up to her office unhappy about how their cases turned out and wants an additional layer of protection in case those confrontations turn sour. 

She’s also noticed that since the pandemic, credit card companies have been filing civil suits in her court, hoping to successfully sue Presidians who stopped paying their credit card bills during the economic downturn. “That’s taking up a lot of space [on the docket] right now,” she said. 

In its own way, the pandemic has made aspects of her job easier — she can attend county meetings via Zoom and can also magistrate people into or from Presidio County Jail remotely, saving her time and gas. “It saves me a trip [to Marfa] and a headache,” she said. 

Bishop’s resolutions for the new year and new term are keeping things in her office fair and transparent. “Some people want to run their courts with a personal agenda, and it’s not like that,” she said. “I want the voters to know that I appreciate their trust.”