What are the roles of various courtroom personnel?
Judge – Each Misdemeanor and Felony Court has an elected judge that presides over the court. In our system the judge is to be impartial and is to base decisions on the law and evidence that is presented in the courtroom. For this reason, the judge will not speak with a person accused of a crime or their friends or family. You should never attempt to contact the judge in person, on thee telephone or in writing. You may speak to the judge if you are in the courtroom with defense counsel present.
Assistant District Attorney – An Assistant District Attorney is a lawyer employed by the District Attorney. There are two to three Assistant District Attorneys assigned to each court. They are responsible for the prosecution of all case assigned to the court. They conduct jury and bench trials, as well as making plea bargain recommendations. They have no contact with the defendant other than through the defendant’s attorney.
Defense Attorney – The defense attorney can be either retained (hired by the defendant) or appointed by the court to represent the defendant. Many of the courts that provide court appointed attorneys use both private lawyers and public defenders. Private lawyers may accept criminal cases for a fee and are paid by the county. Public defenders are lawyers who are employed directly by the county and are assigned to work in a particular court on a full-time basis.
Court Coordinator – This person works for the judge and handles the day to day business of the court. The coordinator is usually responsible for determining if a person is eligible to receive a court appointed lawyer and is well informed with regard to policies and procedures of each individual judge. If you have questions regarding court appearances and any other similar matters concerning your case, you may contact this person.
Court Clerks – The clerks assigned to each court do not work directly for the judge, but rather, work for the county or district clerk’s office. They process all the paperwork that is generated in the court. They determine a person’s back time (time already spent in jail) and calculate applicable fines and court costs.
Court Bailiff – This person is an employee of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. The bailiff is responsible for ensuring the safety of the court, handling jail prisoners or taken into custody in the court. They may also call the docket of the court and inform the judge if a defendant has appeared in court on the proper day and time.