Resources for Maine Public Officials & Dedimus Justices.
An excerpt from:
"The Governor, with the advice and consent of the Council may appoint in each County, persons before whom oaths required by the constitution to qualify civil officers may be taken and subscribed."In the Index is found "Dedimus Justice" and a reference to this act; the word Dedimus nowhere appears in the text of the Statute. No one that I have found knows anything of its history. Its name clearly indicates an old law Latin writ beginning "Dedimus potestatem." Maine was a part of Massachusetts prior to 1820 but no such office is known in the jurisprudence of Massachusetts. Whether there was a Statute of this sort applicable to Maine alone before its erection into a State I have not ascertained, but one of the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court informs me that neither he nor one of his brethren whom he consulted knows anything of this office in Massachusetts. One of the Dedimus Justices has kindly allowed me to copy his commission which I give herewith.
STATE OF MAINE
I do not understand that Dedimus Justices have any trial powers or even that they can take acknowledgment of deeds, or do other ministerial acts which are usually performed by Justices of the Peace. Their powers seem to be limited to administering oaths to civil officers.
The above was written several years since and laid aside but recently I have found in the Leavenworth Genealogy, page 158, that Dr. David Leavenworth of Great Barrington, took the oath of office as a Justice of the Peace before Moses Hopkins and Gen. John Whiting, thereunto empowered by a "Dedimus potestatem." This was June 18 1819 the year before Maine became a State.
Blackstone says, Vol 1 page 352--
So it appears that, in the earlier days, Massachusetts which included Maine, copied this usage from England, and that in Maine they issued the writ to persons who might at any time be applied to, to administer the oath rather than have an application necessary on each particular occasion.
So the whole question appears to be answered. Still so far as I know, Maine is the only State which retains this office or custom. In most, if not all, of the other States any magistrate or notary has the power to administer an oath of office.
FREDERICK J KINGSBURY