TWIN FALLS — Whether assigning courtrooms, checking in jurors or moving paperwork back and forth in the courtroom, the bailiffs serving at the Twin Falls County Judicial Annex have a lot on their hands.
“There’s a whole lot going on,” said Russell Kile, the newest bailiff who has been in the position for nearly three months.
“It gets to be a little chaotic,” Kent Oliver, the part-time bailiff, agreed.
Along with John Bauer and Alan Stallones, the four men work in conjunction with the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s deputies assigned to the courthouse.
“We are here to support them,” Bauer said. “They are the front line.”
Stallones described how the deputies are charged with bringing in-custody defendants from the jail. “We don’t interact with them.”
The bailiffs do make sure that people in custody don’t communicate with those in the gallery.
“No smiling, winking or talking,” Stallones said.
The bailiffs also enforce rules put in place by the Fifth Judicial District administrative judge, Eric Wildman.
Wildman signs off on the dress code, for instance, or whether attorneys can bring their coffee into the courtroom.
“We make sure people dress appropriately in the courtroom,” Bauer said.
That can be especially challenging during summer months, he added.
An out-of-custody defendant who wears a T-shirt with a marijuana symbol would be asked to leave and either change the shirt or turn it inside out, Stallones said.
Vulgar words on shirts and clothing that is too tight would be addressed by the bailiffs, too.
The four men keep an eye on in-custody defendants, who are usually seated in the jury box of the respective courtrooms.
“We’ve had some go up in the jury box and try to take the thumbtacks out of the chairs,” Oliver recalled.
When not in the courtroom, bailiffs assist the deputies in screening people entering the building and passing through the metal detector.
“We also check the perimeter,” Bauer said.
A big part of the bailiffs’ duties involves dealing with the jury pool.
When potential jurors arrive at the courthouse, they must be checked in and directed to the assigned courtroom.
That can be difficult when more than one trial is scheduled, the men said.
“We had four jury pools at one time,” Bauer said of a particularly busy day. That’s about 250 people.
“We’re the only ones who are supposed to have contact with the jury,” Bauer noted.
Once a jury is selected and sworn in, the bailiffs become the eyes and ears of the judge.
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“If something happens, we tell the judge,” Oliver said.
That could involve a juror having a family emergency or becoming ill. If no alternate jurors have been selected, as in Magistrate Court cases, losing a juror could mean a mistrial, Bauer said.
District Court cases usually have one alternate juror or, if the trial will run a long time, two may be selected, Stallones said.
When the jurors are given a break to get some air, bailiffs accompany them outdoors.
The bailiffs must ensure the jurors don’t use their cellphones for searches, or at any time while deliberating a verdict.
“There’s a little basket,” Bauer described. “They put their cellphones in before they start.”
Besides preparing courtrooms to handle that many trials simultaneously, the bailiffs collaborate to make sure visiting judges are assigned courtroom space to handle their cases when they are in the building.
On top of these duties, Bauer and Kile help out with juvenile court cases.
That involves keeping the pace of the 15-minute hearings moving, so each family has their time before the judge.
Unlike Magistrate and District Court hearings, with juveniles, each hearing is private, with no spectators or others in the courtroom, Bauer said.
Oliver works a part-time schedule as bailiff after retiring from the Idaho State Police, where he worked for 26 years.
Kile decided to become a bailiff because he always had an interest in the judicial process and law enforcement. He had been assistant hunting manager at Sportsman’s Warehouse, where he still works part-time.
“He’s a great hire,” Stallones said. “He catches on quickly.”
For all four bailiffs, every day is a chance to acquire new knowledge.
“There’s so much about the law I’ve learned,” Bauer said.
Stallones replied: “After eight-and-a-half years, I’m still learning.”
That knowledge helps in their jobs, as when they help guide those coming to the courthouse for hearings.
While the bailiffs don’t provide legal advice, they can explain what happens at the different types of hearings.
“The court is so confusing if you don’t know what’s going on,” Bauer said.
The four bailiffs enjoy interacting with people, both those who come to the courthouse and those with whom they work.
“We really have a great court family,” Stallones said.
“I enjoy the whole process,” he said. “It’s really interesting to see the groundwork, to watch the attorneys.”
“We go wherever we’re needed,” Oliver said.
“I serve at the pleasure of the judge,” Bauer said.