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If you’ve tuned in to an episode of Judge Judy or are even a little bit familiar with television, you might have recognized the role of a bailiff. A bailiff is an officer whose main job is to keep the peace in the courtroom. Bailiffs have been around for centuries, and there are no signs that this valuable job position is going away any time soon.
If you want to become a bailiff, it’s important to know what requirements are needed beforehand, what specialized training you might have to undergo, and what a day in the life of a bailiff looks like. All of this information can help you prepare for your career in law enforcement as a bailiff.
Duties of a Court Bailiff
Tuning into an episode of Judge Judy, you might think all a court bailiff does is joke with the judge and agree with their humor. On the contrary, this is far from what an actual bailiff does in a courtroom. Bailiffs are responsible for public safety in the courtroom, and as such, they must carry themselves in high regard and show respect to the judge and courtroom attendees at all times.
A bailiff job description includes:
- To announce the judge when he or she enters the courtroom
- To ensure court proceedings go as planned and clients know when it is their turn to see the judge
- To scan people as they come in to a courthouse or courtroom
- To enforce regulations, such as no filming in the courtroom, no speaking back to the judge, and also practice crowd control in larger, celebrity cases
- To ensure public safety within a courtroom, such as reporting and confronting individuals that are a danger or reporting suspicious items and disposing of them, such as packages
- Transporting defendants to and from court to jail or out of the courtroom
- Enforcing the laws of the courtroom and escorting away people, especially if they are found to be in contempt of court
- Making sure the courtroom looks clean and ready to conduct business in
- Submitting legal orders
- Partnering with the secretary, court reporter, and even the judge to address updates to the courtroom and other issues
- Post daily schedules
- Make sure all supplies are stocked for the judge
- Ensure all courtroom guests speaking with the judge are part of their docket and not just strangers
Authority of a Bailiff
It’s important to know that the authority of a bailiff will depend on the specific courtroom they are in, as well as his or her official authority and their capacity as a law enforcement officer.
Some bailiffs are only trained to be court security officers, while others might be full-on police officers and sheriffs. If your bailiff is a deputy sheriff or police officer, these bailiffs are free to arrest you, and aren’t just another member of the public working at the courtroom out of coincidence.
On the other hand, court security officers don’t have the power to arrest you, but they can detain you at the request of the judge. Once detained, a bailiff can escort you to jail while you await trial again.
How To Become a Court Bailiff
A court bailiff must go through a variety of steps to become a court security officer. These include:
- Get an education. Most bailiffs are now becoming highly educated and pursuing school work such as a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in criminal justice. Although most companies and agencies might only require you to obtain your GED or high school diploma, going to college can open up a wealth of opportunities for you.
- Have a clean background record. If during the process of getting hired as a bailiff, an agency wants to conduct a background investigation, have a team of trusted friends and family on standby to help answer any questions from background investigators.
- Improve your physical health. The court bailiff will need to pass an initial medical clearance exam and subsequent exams during their time in courtroom. These medical clearance tests are usually only once a year.
- Complete necessary training. Firearms training is just one of the many courses you might have to take when becoming a bailiff. For people that join the sheriff’s department or want to be a CO, there might be additional requirements such as passing an intensive boot camp for Sheriffs. You will need to undergo the process of becoming a sheriff or CO if you want to pursue this law enforcement career.
- Get on-the-job training. Many bailiffs are trained on the job, meaning there is no formal course to attend to become a bailiff. Make sure to pay close attention to your mentor and take the time to ask questions about your new position as a bailiff.
Are All Court Bailiff’s Police Officers?
Not all court bailiffs are police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or U.S. Marshalls. Some court bailiffs were only hired by an agency, such as the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security, because they had experience in law enforcement and now want to work as a court security officer. However, experience is only a recommendation by some agencies, and not exactly required for all bailiffs in the courtroom.
A bailiff might also be a sheriff’s deputy, police officer, or off-duty police officer that chose to moonlight as a bailiff or was reassigned to that courtroom. This assignment is usually not permanent, and most Sheriff’s deputies will have to be put on bailiff duty, especially when they are beginning their career.
Difference Between Correctional Officer and Bailiff
If you’re a deputy sheriff or correctional officer, you might spend a lot of your time transporting people from jail to court and back. However, unlike a bailiff, a deputy sheriff and correctional officer will spend the rest of their day after court working within jail and not directly in the courtroom (unless they have been placed there on detail or reassignment).
Many people might think a correctional officer and a bailiff are the same, but this is not the case. Although COs can be present in a courtroom during court proceedings, they are usually only there accompanying a prisoner awaiting trial.
Skills a Court Security Officer Must Have
Bailiff skills are some of the most valuable today. By learning what it is that is required for bailiff skills, you can find the best option for your next career move! Below are some of the many skills you, as a future bailiff, should possess:
- Patience. Many of the offenders you will come face to face within a courtroom or during their trial might be impossible to interact within a friendly manner. It’s important for you to understand how to contain your emotions and work with people in the courtroom to keep the peace and protect the judge.
- Organization skills. Many bailiffs will also be responsible for some of the administrative paperwork of the judge. A combination of office and law enforcement experience are desirable for bailiffs.
- Bilingual or respectful of languages. A bailiff might also be tasked with helping others follow court orders, court procedures, and more. If people attending a courtroom don’t speak English, a bailiff can provide invaluable help to translate what an offender means, while also helping protect them.
Baliff Career Prospects
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts bailiff jobs will decrease by around 2% until the year 2026. However, like other law enforcement jobs, this isn’t too big of a drop, and bailiffs will need to replace other bailiffs who retire, move on to another stage of their career, or leave the courtroom they work in.
Where and When Do Bailiffs Work?
Bailiffs can work in the district court, supreme court, and other courtrooms across the United States. Some bailiffs are also hired to do inspections on guests when they arrive in the courtroom and will be limited to working the front entrance to a court building.
No matter where they work, bailiffs play a crucial role in helping the public feel safe while they enter a courtroom, keeping order in the court, and help the court procedure run smoothly.
Bailiffs, unlike other law enforcement personnel, also have a schedule similar to traditional office workers. They cannot work inside of a courtroom while it is locked unless it is to provide security, so they must work during regular business hours. This means holiday-paid time off as well!
Bailiffs do much more than protect a judge. They can have the power to maintain order in a courtroom and assist in court proceedings. If you’re interested in a career in law enforcement, becoming a bailiff is an excellent way to start your career and improve the experience of people attending court.