Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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Bailiffs get new image, prospects for pay hike

For months, the bailiffs in courts in Clark County, who screen people coming into the courthouse and protect judges and juries, have complained about their low pay.

The issue has resulted in severely diminished ranks, they say, citing the departure of 18 bailiffs for other law enforcement jobs in the past year.

Now, with the aid of judges and court administrators, the bailiffs - who since July 1 are being called "Clark County courts deputy marshals , " with new badges and uniform patches on order - are taking several steps to more effectively push the county to grant them a raise.

In short, the judges will receive a better-trained force of deputy marshals to protect them and the courthouses they serve. In return, the judges soon are likely to approve a memorandum of understanding with the marshals to allow them to unionize and receive increased job protections. Unionizing also would let them more persuasively argue to Clark County managers that they deserve a pay boost.

Formerly technically under the control of Metro Police and called " deputy sheriff bailiffs," the officers ' designation changed as the result of a bill they had passed this Legislative session. The law mandates that all future deputy marshals become "category 1" peace officers, meaning they will receive 480 hours of academy training.

The bailiffs hired before the bill went into effect could be category 1 or category 2 officers, who have less training.

As part of the unofficial quid pro quo, district judges soon will vote on whether to allow deputy marshals to unionize, something they've sought for years. If the agreement with the marshals passes, a pool of qualified deputy marshals would be created, from which judges could hire.

Under the current system, the bailiffs, as "at will" employees, are out of a job when their judge leaves office or decide s he wants a new bailiff. Under the agreement, the marshals would go back into the pool, which would give them a better chance to be rehired faster.

In addition to working in the District Court and the Las Vegas Justice Courts in downtown Las Vegas' Regional Justice Center, the roughly 90 deputy marshals affected by these changes also work in Clark County Family Court and in the Justice Courts in Henderson and North Las Vegas.

According to District Court Deputy Marshal George Glasper, who heads the newly named Clark County Courts Marshals Association, the changes would be a win-win .

It's clear, he says, that the marshals are underpaid. Deputy marshals make about $35,000 to $55,000 per year. That's $20,000 less than many of those with similar jobs throughout the county - including the bailiffs who serve the Las Vegas Municipal Court, which handles only misdemeanors.

"We have fallen woefully behind," Glasper said. "We have a basic right to be paid the same for the same work."

Odds are looking good that the judges will approve the proposed agreement with the marshals. According to Chief District Judge Kathy Hardcastle, District Court judges have signaled through earlier votes that they support the changes .

"They've increased their professionalism, and the commensurate action is better pay" and benefits, Hardcastle said. The agreement the judges are likely to approve on July 11, she said, would ease the push for a needed salary increase.

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