Monday, October 17, 2016

The court bailiff protects the judge

The court bailiff's job is to maintain order within a courtroom and protect judges, jurors, and other court personnel.  In California, most bailiffs are law enforcement personnel, typically from the Sheriff department.  Bailiffs formerly were a separate department called the Marshal, but several years ago the Marshal merged into the Sheriff department.

A while back, I was in court one day, watching another trial while waiting for my own case to be called.  In the middle of the testimony of that trial, the bailiff interrupted and said “Your Honor, I need you to leave the bench.”

Without any further comment or explanation, the judge immediately rose and left the bench, disappearing through a side door.  I've never seen a judge move that fast.  He was out of the courtroom within five seconds of that request.

The attorney in trial, his witness, and the other party, all stood there at counsel table with confused looks on their faces.  They were in the middle of trial!

The bailiff who'd made that announcement hustled out through the main courtroom door at the back.  The court clerk migrated toward the exit doors near the front of the courtroom.  Those of us more-experienced attorneys motioned to our clients and we started moving toward the court clerk.

This particular courtroom was the closest courtroom to the courthouse entrance and must have been a short-cut because several seconds later, about 8-10 bailiffs erupted into the courtroom through the front doors, almost knocking down those of us who'd congregated there, and ran out the main door.

About five minutes later, our bailiff returned and announced “the situation is under control”.  The judge returned and the trial resumed.

I learned later that someone had made a scene while entering the courthouse through the weapon screening station, and the security staff had deemed it a sufficient threat that they called for back-up.

Eviction cases can cause heated emotions.  If there is no bailiff in the courtroom to protect the judge, in most instances the judge cannot be on the bench.

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