What does a Bailiff do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The job description of a bailiff varies, depending on the nation in which he or she works. Bailiffs are usually trained law enforcement officers but they may provide a range of services, including service of process, security for prisoner transport, courtroom security, debt collection, and other services, depending on where they are employed. This article focuses on the role of the bailiff in the criminal justice system of the United States.

A bailiff checks the courtroom for dangerous items before each trial.
A bailiff checks the courtroom for dangerous items before each trial.

Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who are responsible for maintaining order in courtrooms. The bailiff secures the court, makes sure that everyone in court complies with the rules of the court, and protects the judge and jury. Bailiffs can be found at the entrance of the court, confirming that everyone is authorized to enter, and checking for weapons. They may also be stationed near the accused and near the entrances and exits to the courtroom.

Bailiffs typically receive training on how to handle and fire hand guns.
Bailiffs typically receive training on how to handle and fire hand guns.

Bailiffs are responsible for announcing and enforcing court policies, in addition to announcing the judge. If the judge issues an order to remove someone from the court, the bailiff will enforce this order. Bailiffs can also issue warnings to people who are not complying with the rules of the court. These law enforcement officers continuously monitor trial proceedings for any signs of illegal activities or disregard of the rules of the court.

Bailiffs are usually trained law enforcement officers.
Bailiffs are usually trained law enforcement officers.

A bailiff has some special responsibilities in regard to the jury. In court, the bailiff prevents contact between jurors and members of the public to limit the possibility of interference with the jury. The bailiff also escorts the jury in and out of court. If jurors need to be sequestered, bailiffs provide security in the hotels where the jurors are housed and the restaurants where they eat. Bailiffs also remain alert to security threats which might involve the jury, especially in trials where juror intimidation is a concern.

To become a bailiff, it is usually necessary to obtain a degree in criminal justice or a related field and to graduate from a law enforcement academy. Bailiffs may be provided by a sheriff's or marshal's office, in which case bailiffs may rotate between court and other duties related to their jobs. This type of work requires a knowledge of courtroom procedure and rules in addition to skills required from law enforcement, such as keen observation skills, physical ability, and the ability to work with the often diverse members of the public.

The safety of a judge depends upon the bailiff's diligence in performing his or her duties.
The safety of a judge depends upon the bailiff's diligence in performing his or her duties.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@JimmyT - I just read about this the other day. Apparently, federal courts are staffed by U.S. Marshals. I would guess they work a lot in the same way as bailiffs for state courts. I know that Marshals generally have a lot different job function, though. They are responsible for hunting down fugitives and doing a lot of things that normal police offers wouldn't do. Of course, they also have to go through some extra training.

I think in general that most people consider the job of a bailiff to be pretty easy, but after reading this article, it sounds like there is a lot of stuff that most people don't think about. Sometimes, they would be spending long hours waiting on a jury to deliberate whereas regular officers would get to go home at the end of their shift.

I know the vast majority of court cases are pretty mundane, but I think if you got to be a bailiff for a national case, that might be kind of exciting.


@titans62 - Following up on kentuckycat's post, some of it too would depend on the type of cases going on. If it is a high profile murder case, I'm guessing the courtroom would have a bailiff checking people at the door and a couple more around just in case someone got out of control.

Something else I have noticed from my limited time in courtroom is that a lot of the bailiffs are older. I am guessing that maybe once regular officers start getting older they transfer to the courthouse to work as bailiffs. Of course, there will always be a few instances where they would have to deal with unruly people, but I am guessing the job of a bailiff isn't too physically demanding, which would make it better for older officers.

What I was also wondering was how bailiffs worked in federal courtrooms. Where do they come from, and how do they get their jobs?


@titans62 - Good questions. I think a lot of the answers to your questions rely on the actual courtroom and its location. For example, a small, rural courthouse may only have court one or two times a week. In that case, there's obviously nothing for the bailiff to do in the courtroom. He or she would probably have other jobs around the courthouse, though, like the article mentioned. I think in general that bailiffs usually provide bailiff services full time. I don't think they do regular police functions.

As far as how many there are, again, a small courthouse may not need more than one. I have been in courtrooms in larger cities, though, and there may be several. From what I can remember, one person was responsible for announcing the judge and providing protection to the bench. Another's job was getting prisoners from holding when they were called, and someone else regulated who was allowed to go to the defendant's table.


I never thought about all the different things that a bailiff would have to do outside of the courtroom. It seems like it is a pretty interesting job, but I'm sure it might get boring if you had to do it as a full time career.

The article mentions that bailiffs may rotate between other jobs. Does that mean that most courtrooms have rotation bailiffs? For example, one day the bailiff may be working in the courtroom while the next day that person will be driving around doing regular police duty, or do some people actually have a bailiff career where that is all they do?

It sounds like some courtrooms may have quite a few bailiffs. Is that normal? Any time I have ever seen a courtroom on TV it just looks like there are one or maybe two officers there.

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