Exploring this Job

Do you like the sound of a career as a bailiff? If you'd like to know what it would really be like, take some steps on your own to explore the career and get some inside information. Any contact you can have with law enforcement officers will be a big plus. Contact your local police station and request a tour of the facilities. Explain that you are considering a law enforcement career and ask if anyone would be willing to talk to you about typical police work. Sit in on some hearings or trials at your local courthouse and pay close attention to every move the bailiff makes. Try to spot his or her main duties. Try to arrange an interview either at the courthouse or over the phone to ask the questions you'll no doubt have after seeing the bailiff in action. Talk to your school counselor or political science teacher about arranging a "Students in Court" day in which you and your friends play the role of different officers of the court in a mock trial. Do some research and interview a bailiff or two before the mock trial. Check into volunteer programs; many courts allow high school students to volunteer in various ways. If a program doesn't exist, suggest creating one to your school counselor or principal.

The Job

The majority of bailiffs in the United States serve in the court or legal system; however, some bailiffs own their own service businesses. Most people are more familiar with the courtroom bailiff who instructs people in the court to rise and be seated when the judge does and who swears in witnesses. These tasks and many others make up the courtroom bailiff's main duty, which is to serve the judge and the courtroom to which he or she is assigned. Depending on the state in which the bailiff is employed and the judge, the duties vary, but all bailiffs in the court system have some common responsibilities. First, the bailiff must maintain order during trials. Security is an important part of the bailiff's job. Although the judge and the jury are the bailiff's first concern, every person in the courtroom is under the care of the bailiff as far as personal safety is concerned. If a bailiff is in tune with the goings-on in the court, potential problems can be avoided and trouble can be spotted before it erupts. Bailiffs are most respected if they run a safe and secure courtroom.

The bailiff is basically the judge's right hand. The bailiff swears in witnesses, handles articles of evidence, escorts prisoners to and from court, prepares reports, and does whatever else the judge may ask. Paperwork is also a segment of the bailiff 's responsibilities, although the focus depends on the type of court in which the bailiff serves. Some bailiffs may be responsible for processing juvenile warrants by dispersing them to local law enforcement and issuing notices of cancellation when appropriate. Others are tasked with collecting criminal records on those whom the court has ordered such information collected, such as parents or guardians of juveniles in custody or individuals applying for positions in the juvenile courts. Bailiffs must also remind people of courtroom rules and enforce those rules if necessary. For example, a bailiff may tell someone in the court that smoking is not allowed or that their conversation is interrupting court proceedings. If necessary, the bailiff may remove uncooperative persons from the courtroom.

Courtroom bailiffs are often also charged with taking care of the jury. When juries are sequestered, meaning not allowed to return to their homes during a trial, the bailiff must make arrangements for their food and lodging during the entire trial process. The bailiff usually accompanies jury members to any public places, such as restaurants, to make sure they do not have contact with the public. If a bailiff fails to keep the jury from seeing or hearing anything about the case at hand, the jury members may have to be replaced and the court proceedings brought to a grinding halt. The bailiff also serves as a guard wherever the jury is staying.

Outside the confines of the courtroom and the responsibilities of the jury, the bailiff also serves legal papers such as court summonses, restraining orders, and jury summonses. Independent bailiffs also serve this function. They act as process servers and track down individuals or companies to serve them legal documents. Independent bailiffs also collect money or property that has defaulted back under a lease, lien, or mortgage. A bailiff may get an assignment to repossess a vehicle, for instance, or to inform tenants that the landlord is throwing them out because they haven't paid the rent for six months. Independent bailiff work is usually done on an assignment or contract basis in which someone calls the bailiff and pays for a specific, one-time service.