Shelby sheriff's plan for bailiffs creates controversy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Shelby sheriff's plan for bailiffs creates controversy

Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell says he can save taxpayers big money by making old deputies work part-time in court, replacing current full-time bailiffs.

It's a concept that shut down the courts for a day, and had local judges making their case to the Shelby County Commission earlier this month.

"I think the sheriff has to show respect for the judgement...the experience of the judges," Circuit Court Judge D'Army Bailey said in an interview Friday.

Bailey was referring to a letter from Luttrell that makes the suggestion.  Luttrell laid out his bailiff plan after Shelby County commissioners asked him to cut costs with court bailiffs.  The letter suggests using retired, part-time deputies in place off full-time deputies would save money.

"The initial estimate is that it could save $600,000 a year," said Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.  "Some people think more."

Bunker said he supports the idea, while Bailey was worried about the public.

"We bring people down to serve as jurors," Bailey said. "We have a responsibility to the public that comes into those courtrooms to make sure they're safe."

But Bunker said he has been reassured by the sheriff.

"He's told me that this won't effect the security in the courtroom, and I have to believe him," Bunker said.

The sheriff is now calling for judges to try part-time bailiffs on a trial basis.

"I'd hate to see one life lost because we had someone who was retired, who was brought back, who was perhaps not capable physically or not as alert or not willing to take the same risk," Bailey said.

Other judges contacted by Action News 5 on Friday were not excited by the prospect of being part of a trial-run.

Luttrell was non-committal about the plan he laid out in the letter.

"I'm not taking a position on this," he said by phone. "I'm just providing information for the commissioners to review."

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