Bailiffs are one of many career paths individuals with an interest in criminal justice can choose to pursue. Every local, state and federal court generally has a need for bailiffs as they are often necessary for everything from traffic court to high profile court cases. Also sometimes known as marshals or court officers, here are five duties expected of bailiffs.
1. Announce a Judge’s Entrance into the Courtroom
While the judge is the main person in the courtroom dictating the pace of proceedings, the bailiff also plays a role in legal pace. By announcing the entrance of a judge, bailiffs are implying that those in the courtroom need to direct their attention to the front of the court and that behavior expected in a courtroom session should begin. Additionally, bailiffs are expected to call witnesses to the stand during testimonies and often will swear in those witnesses, after which point those witnesses are considered to be under oath and can be criminally charged for lying.
2. Protect the Judge and other Attendees in the Courtroom
Bailiffs frequently carry firearms or other self-defense weapons in order to protect people in the court. Furthermore, bailiffs are tasked with escorting people out of the courtroom should they begin displaying animosity or start breaking courtroom rules. Bailiffs may also be responsible for screening individuals entering the court to make sure there are no prohibited items such as firearms or cell phones being carried into the courtroom.
3. Collect Evidence from Legal Parties and Juries
Evidence handed over during trial is never to be handed directly from a legal team or jury to the judge. All evidence is first handed to a bailiff, partly for security reasons, before being passed to a judge for observation. Additionally, this practice helps maintain order in courtroom proceedings. For similar reasons, bailiffs often also act as messengers for the jury by passing on messages from jurors to their families or even to the judge/courtroom.
4. Accompany Sequestered Juries
During trials, juries should remain isolated and should not be having direct contact with the public in order to keep trials as unbiased and true to courtroom discussion as possible. For this reason, bailiffs are expected to accompany sequestered or recessed juries outside the court during ongoing trials. Bailiffs should also make sure jurors are not discussing the current case with each other as such discussion is generally prohibited prior to the conclusion of a trial. A bailiff’s presence around jurors outside the courtroom is intended to provide security for the jury as well.
5. Keep up with Important Paperwork and Serve Subpoenas
Important files and papers needed during trials and case hearings are usually handled by a bailiff prior to a judge’s perusal. Therefore, it is important for a bailiff to stay organized and ensure that the paperwork he/she is handing to a judge is the correct paperwork. Some areas may expect bailiffs to serve subpoenas, which are orders to appear in court. If a person served with a subpoena by a bailiff does not appear in court as requested, the bailiff may be tasked with returning to that person’s residence to carry out an arrest. Additionally, some courts may have bailiffs carry out court orders to seize property, an act in which paperwork should be left detailing the court order and that person’s options.
The duties of bailiffs are always similar, but the level of responsibilities can vary depending on local and state laws. Above all else, though, the main duty shared by all bailiffs during their long history has always been to protect the court and maintain order.
See also: What Does a Paralegal Do?