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OLR Research Report


February 11, 2009

 

2009-R-0092

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR JUDICIAL MARSHALS

By: Meghan Reilly, Research Analyst

You asked for information on the application process for judicial marshals (or similarly situated court security staff) in other states, specifically relating to the extent of the criminal background check required.

SUMMARY

Connecticut judicial marshals perform the powers and duties previously granted to sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, including court security, and transfer of prisoners. Candidates must successfully complete a criminal background check.

Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont each employ individuals to perform tasks similar to those of the Connecticut marshal. All of the states perform background checks on applicants. Maine and New York consider an applicant's criminal record as an adult. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island evaluate the applicant's lifetime record. Vermont sheriffs must complete the state's police academy to be eligible, and so the court does not have to perform criminal background checks, since that is part of the process for being accepted at the academy.

CONNECTICUT: JUDICIAL MARSHALS

Under prior law, deputy sheriffs could perform courthouse security, although special deputy sheriffs primarily performed this function.  The act transferred the responsibility for courthouse security to the Judicial Department and allowed special deputy sheriffs to continue to perform these functions as judicial marshals. PA 00-99 required judicial marshals to attend sessions of the Superior Court and family support magistrates, rather than sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and special deputy sheriffs. It allowed a judge trial referee to have judicial marshals attend a hearing and eliminated this provision for sheriffs and deputy sheriffs.

The act allowed a deputy sheriff who performed court security or prisoner custody or transportation to choose whether to become a state marshal and serve process or a judicial marshal and perform courthouse security. The act also transferred to judicial marshals the power of the Hartford County sheriff or his deputy to adjourn a term or session of the Supreme Court in certain circumstances.

Candidates for the job must pass a physical exam and agility screening, a drug screen, and a criminal background check.

COURT SECURITY SURVEY: OTHER STATES

Maine: State Marshals

The Maine State Marshal Service is part of the Judicial Branch's Administrative Office of the Courts. They provide physical security and law enforcement services to the Superior, Family, Supreme, and District Courts as well as their respective judicial staff. These Marshals are state level law enforcement officers, trained through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. 2801-A. Definitions, http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Bailiff#United_States).

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, applicants for employment as state marshals are subject to a background check that considers any criminal activity in their adult lives.

Massachusetts: Court Officers

Massachusetts Court Officers protect the privacy and insure the safety of judges, provide security in the prisoner detention area and the courtroom, escort prisoners, inspect rooms for explosive devices, accept defendants into custody, and provide security for prisoners, witnesses, jurors, court personnel and the public in the courthouse (Mass. Gen. Laws 221 70A, http://www.mass.gov/courts/jobs/co.pdf).

According to the Administrative Office of the Massachusetts Trial Court, applicants' lifetime criminal history is checked in the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system. Past convictions are not an automatic bar to employment; the hiring director considers both the nature of the offense and the time elapsed since it occurred.

New Hampshire: Sheriffs, Court Security Officers

Elected sheriffs and their deputies are responsible for patrol duties, civil process, transport of prisoners, criminal and civil warrants, and security in the county courthouses. They are also responsible for the prisoners in the local district courts (N.H. Const. Pt. 1, Art. 35, http://www.hcsonh.us/). Per diem court security officers serve civil process.

According to the Cheshire County Sheriff's Office, deputies are subject to a complete criminal background check covering the span of their lifetime as well as a series of physical and psychological tests. The court security officers are also subject to a lifetime criminal background check, but not the psychological testing.

New Jersey: Special Civil Part Officers, Sheriff's Officers

Special Civil Part officers are independent contractors who serve writs and judgments and, in some cases, collect funds. The assignment judge of each judicial district appoints the officers. No salary or benefits are provided by the State. Income is generated solely from fees paid by litigants for service of court orders and a percentage of the money collected to pay judgments (N.J. Stat. Ann. 2B-6-3). Sheriff's officers maintain order and security in the courtroom, serve court processes, perform criminal identification, ballistics and investigations, and apprehend criminals (N.J. Stat. Ann. 2A:154-3, http://webapps.dop.state.nj.us/jobspec/03694@.htm).

According to the judicial branch human resources division, Special Civil Part applicants are subject to a lifetime criminal background check. The court's human resources division also takes fingerprints of officers on their first day of work for a second criminal check. Some applicants with a criminal history dating back more than 20 years have been hired despite their record due to outstanding circumstances. The sheriff's department confirmed that their applicants are also subject to a lifetime criminal background check.

New York: Court Officers

New York State Court Officers are responsible for maintaining order and providing security in courtrooms, court buildings, and grounds. NYS Court Officers are assigned to all trial courts and court agencies.  NYS Court Officers are peace officers, required to wear uniforms, and maybe authorized to carry firearms, execute warrants, make arrests and may coordinate the activities of other court security personnel (McKinney's Judiciary Law 342, http://www.nycourts.gov/ea/xml/asp_transform/DisplayTitleStandard.asp?title=9467001).

According to the judicial branch security office, applicants are subject to a criminal background check. Any criminal activity beyond the date of the applicant's high school graduation will be considered.

Rhode Island: Sheriffs

The Rhode Island Sheriff's Department manages courtroom and judicial security, court facility and cellblock operations, inmate transportation for intrastate travel and interstate extraditions and transfers, writ services, body attachments, fugitive apprehension, narcotics interdiction, search and rescue, and special operations (R.I. Gen. Laws 42-11-21, http://www.sheriffs.ri.gov/About.htm).

According to the Newport Sheriff's Office, an applicant's lifetime criminal history is considered, but the relevance of incidents in the criminal history will be evaluated according to the date and severity of the charge.

Vermont: Sheriffs

Vermont sheriff responsibilities include furnishing security for the county Superior Court and Vermont District Court, serving civil and criminal papers, transportation of prisoners, patrolling towns, motor vehicle and snowmobile enforcement, and furnishing security for events (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullchapter.cfm?Title=24&Chapter=005).

According to the Vermont Court Administrative Services Office, they generally do not perform criminal background checks because Vermont sheriffs have already satisfied the requirements for acceptance to and completion of the state police academy, which has a lengthy qualification process including criminal background checks, polygraph tests, and other elements.

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