Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Discussion between court administrators and Clark County commissioners regarding court marshals — formerly known as bailiffs — served as a reminder Tuesday of a union issue simmering for months that is now part of a federal lawsuit.
The court got some of what it wanted in more marshals and the county didn’t give up positions, which the court also wanted. Didn’t that take care of simmering issues?
No. County bailiffs/marshals have a union, which has been recognized by Clark County. Even so, the county has not in two years bargained collectively with the union. The union wants to be able to collectively bargain, much as firefighters, police and virtually all county employees — not including administrators — have the right to do.
Attorney Adam Levine, who represents the Clark County Deputy Marshals Association, has filed a complaint with the state Employee-Management Relations Board demanding that the county negotiate with the union.
He has also filed a federal lawsuit, using the Fair Labor Standards Act to argue that the marshals are entitled to overtime and payment for taking classes to obtain law enforcement certification.
The implication in both actions is the court’s marshals should be treated no differently than other county employees, including police officers.
“They should be paid the same as other law enforcement instead of being paid less than locksmiths,” Levine said.
Do they really face the kind of dangers of police on the streets — gangbangers, angry domestic combatants and the like?
“They certainly do,” Levine said. “Judges face a lot of threats and emotional issues … And it goes beyond judges. They deal with gangbangers and all those other people police deal with. Where do you think the trials of gangbangers take place?”
Have any examples of what they deal with?
An 8th District Court spokeswoman provided figures for the number of times marshals deal with knives, fights and other court duties. Here’s a partial list that provides average numbers per month from January through August, then the total so far this year:
Walk-ins to the Regional Justice Center: monthly average, 121,122; total, 968,973.
Packages screened: 136,566 average; 1,092,530 total.
Confiscated knives/nail files/sharp objects: 602 average; 4,217 total.
Medical transports: seven average; 59 total.
Fights: 36 average; 290 total.
Remands (taking people to jail): 93 average; 742 total.
Are bailiff/marshal unions recognized elsewhere?
They are in Washoe County, Levine said.
How has Clark County responded to the complaint and lawsuit?
The county’s overriding contention is that marshals are employees of the court, not the county. That negates the necessity of the county to grant them the extra pay they demand. Attorneys hired by the county have requested a federal judge dismiss the lawsuit.
Levine fired back at that argument, didn’t he?
He did. He argues that the separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government dictates that the courts cannot hire their own police or peace officers.
Indeed, Clark County (executive branch) hires marshals and pays them.
So they are county employees?
Levine says yes; Clark County says no. It is likely that the courts will decide.
Last week, commissioners postponed voting on a newsrack ordinance because they want to see if there is a way to deal with newsracks and handbillers the same way. An attorney for a newsrack business — many on the Strip distribute adult pamphlets — said they are restricted to certain times, places and manners so handbillers should be under the same restrictions. Handbillers press adult cards in front of pedestrians, trying to get them to grab one and call one of the bodacious women pictured next to a phone number.
Why does the county think this is a good idea?
There’s a sense the county might be able to legally put certain time, place and manner demands on handbillers.
Does the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which has fought the county and won numerous times over potential free speech restrictions, like the idea of considering newsracks and handbillers as one?
Not at all. Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU attorney, said there were obvious instances where handbillers can be restricted.
“When you have specific bottlenecks that are helping to back up pedestrian traffic, you could require them to be spread out a bit more,” he said.
Some of those bottlenecks already have been worked out with Metro Police. But to potentially limit handbillers in the same way that newsracks are limited, and bolted, to specific areas on the sidewalk, won’t fly with Lichtenstein.
“We’ve never argued there can’t be regulation,” he said. “Our argument is that (regulation) has to be narrowly tailored to avoid specific problems such as bottlenecks. Then again, you’ve got pedestrian obstruction with volcanoes and pirate shows on the Strip, so you have to be very careful.”