Background Checks Leading to Las Vegas Bailiff Shortage?

By Michael Klazema on 1/20/2016

Is a pre-employment background check making it difficult for Las Vegas courts to fill bailiff positions? That could be the case, based on a recent report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. According to the local publication, a new bailiff program was established in North Las Vegas last year as a means of filling positions and saving the city money. So far, the program has failed to do either of those things, and criminal background checks could be part of the reason why.

As initially proposed, the North Las Vegas bailiff program was meant to hire new personnel to take responsibility for court security in the area. Previously, the local government used court marshals to ensure security in local courts. Officials touted the switch to bailiffs as a plan that would save the city $500,000. Since the bailiffs would be paid less, the program was supposed to make court security a less expensive proposition for the city.

The court marshals, meanwhile, were transferred to the police department and tasked with collecting unpaid court fines or tracking down people who had failed to comply with court orders. The marshals had previously had these same tasks in their job descriptions but were supposed to have more time to do so now that they wouldn't be policing the court. That extra time was meant to lead to greater fine collection numbers, which, when combined with the lower salaries for the bailiffs, would result in big savings for the city.

The police department is happy to have extra personnel in the form of the marshals, but that's just about the only area in which the bailiff program has paid off. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal report, the city hasn't saved a dime yet. Worse, the courts might not have sufficient security anymore, given a bailiff shortage. The report notes that, since implementing the bailiff program, North Las Vegas has hired four bailiffs (two part-time and two full-time) to work security at the local courts. Those numbers account for less than half of what the court actually wants. Currently, there are five more bailiff positions open—three of them full-time and two of them part-time.

So what's the issue? Criminal history, apparently. The city requires that every bailiff applicant pass a pre-employment background check. So far, the city has struggled to find people who are interested in the bailiff job and who can pass the necessary background check.

The issue puts North Las Vegas courts in an obvious dilemma. Eliminating the background check or making it less pivotal is obviously not an option. Bailiffs are in charge of securing courtrooms, escorting criminals and defendants into court for their proceedings, and more. They need to be upstanding individuals who can be trusted with the hefty responsibility that their jobs entail.

The other options are to offer higher salaries for bailiffs or to revert to the old system and bring court marshals back to provide court security. The former option would eliminate the savings that the bailiff program was trying to create in the first place. The latter option, meanwhile, would be an acknowledgment that the program has failed. Or, the court could continue looking for new bailiffs and leave those five positions unfilled, but doing so might present a security risk.


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