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State legislature asked to relieve Pulaski sheriff's workload

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Dec. 2, 2008) — The county courthouse could receive an extra state-funded court bailiff if a bill pre-filed by State Rep. David Day, R-Dixon, passes the legislature next year.

Two bailiffs already serve in Pulaski County. State law currently specifies that an extra bailiff — technically known as a “circuit court marshal” — is to be appointed if the average inmate population of a circuit exceeds 2,500 for a two-year period. Day’s legislation would lower that number to 1,500, which means the state prison population in Licking would qualify the 25th Judicial Circuit, which includes Pulaski, Texas, Phelps and Maries counties, for an additional bailiff.

While Licking is in Texas County, changes of venue are common and the Pulaski County courthouse often hosts visiting judges from other counties as well as trials involving defendants from those counties.

In a prepared statement, Day said Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King, Pulaski County Associate Circuit Judge Colin Long, Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Rachelle Beasley and 25th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Mary Sheffield all supported the legislative change.

The legislation could help other areas besides Pulaski County, Day said in the statement.

“This will help many areas of the state that like us, have law enforcement departments and county budgets that are stretched about as far as they can go,” Day said. “The men and women in law enforcement work hard to keep us safe but they need and deserve a helping hand … This simple change to the law will allow Pulaski County to add a circuit court marshal who will further improve the service we receive from our law enforcement and legal communities. I am happy to do anything I can to help the sheriff’s department and everyone involved in the legal system so we can continue to make our part of the state a great place to live.”

Statewide, the proposal would cost the Missouri general revenue fund $317,141 in its first year, $391,986 in its second year and $403,745 in its third year, according to Committee on Legislative Research figures provided by Day. No additional costs to the budgets of Beasley or King are anticipated, Day indicated.

King said his deputies are regularly being pulled off other duties to serve as courtroom guards because the circuit clerk doesn’t have enough bailiffs to staff all three courtrooms.

“Several times each week we have to supply bailiffs,” King said. “There frequently are three judges in operation and we have to regularly provide a bailiff for that. And we frequently have a judge whose defendants may have additional security needs, which means we have to tie up two or three deputies in that courtroom alone while still providing bailiffs for one or two other courtrooms.”

Missouri sheriffs don’t have a choice on providing courtroom security; state law provides that serving the court takes priority over other functions of deputies including road patrol and investigations. The result, King said, is that his department has to pull deputies away from their regular work.

“Every time we do this, it takes us away from our primary duties. It is not to say security for the courthouse is not important, but we have a limit to our manpower,” King said. “Having a third bailiff full time will cut down the manpower requirements.”

The only alternative, King said, is calling in off-duty deputies. That increases their “comp time,” which has been a source of friction between King and the county commission when deputies leave the department and have to be paid hundreds or thousands of dollars in previously uncompensated leave time.

The legislative proposal began with Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall when he realized reducing the number of prisoners in a circuit needed to get an extra bailiff would help Pulaski County, and King thanked Ransdall for his help.

“It’s a great idea,” King said. “This was different departments working together to relieve a manpower shortage. It’s a concrete example of cooperation and working together in the courthouse … Contrary to what the public sometimes thinks, we do not argue all the time. We have disagreements but we also have our agreements.”

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