For individuals involved in the court system, be that a victim or perpetrator, an attorney or law enforcement officer, witnesses, judges, or the media, the process can be long and overwhelming. The stakeholders involved in the courts have their own goals and agendas, and each have their own specific needs.
With so much occurring in one court case, from the incredible amount of information to the number of tasks that must be completed, there is the necessity of having a court worker whose purpose is to schedule, organize, and oversee the logistical and administrative components of the courts. This is where court liaisons come in.
What is a Court Liaison?
Court liaisons are typically members of a local law enforcement agency, such as a city police department or county sheriff’s department, who coordinate legal proceedings and related activities. As non-sworn members of law enforcement, court liaisons are not uniformed members of the police force. Rather, they serve an administrative function to support law enforcement agencies in their work with the courts to process people through the court system.
In some municipalities, court liaisons conduct work for various court systems, including civil and criminal court, family or juvenile court, or drug court. In other municipalities, court liaisons specialize their work with just one type of court. This is usually the case in larger jurisdictions in which there are a large number of individuals involved in the court systems. Whether a court liaison specializes with one court or not, it is their role to ensure the day-to-day proceedings of the court run smoothly and that all involved entities have the resources they need to make that happen.
What Does a Court Liaison Do?
In most work settings, court liaisons focus on administrative duties. They work with attorneys to coordinate schedules for witnesses. For example, a court liaison would schedule a deposition of a sheriff’s deputy. They would also coordinate with city police to ensure an officer is available to provide testimony in court. They may also serve subpoenas on behalf of law enforcement agencies and maintain records regarding when, where, and by whom subpoenas have been issued. Court liaisons often prepare court documents that outline criminal charges against a defendant and ensure the documents are complete before submitting them to the proper officials. They will also review paperwork regarding misdemeanor and felony cases, ensuring that all required documentation is present, completed, and accurate.
Much time is spent coordinating activities between various stakeholders in the judicial and legal realms, including Clerks of Court, State Attorney’s Offices, local law enforcement agencies, attorneys, probation and parole, and the like. A prime example of this duty would be responding to requests for evidence discovery by attorneys or requests from the court to examine evidence related to a specific case. Court liaisons are also responsible for sharing information between law enforcement, court officials, defense attorneys, and other associated personnel. For example, when a subpoena is served, court liaisons would inform the appropriate officials in their department and in the courts.
Another common duty of court liaisons is to keep law enforcement personnel and the community at large updated on court proceedings. This includes preparing witnesses for trial. This most often takes the form of helping law enforcement personnel practice giving testimony. It might also involve writing press releases to inform the public about the outcomes of court cases, especially those that involve members of law enforcement. For example, if a police officer stands trial for injuring a suspect during an arrest, a court liaison might work with the officer to explain how his or her case will proceed through the court system. At the conclusion of the trial, the court liaison would then write and issue a statement that explains the outcome of the case and what, if any, action will be taken against the officer.
In some jurisdictions, court liaisons are responsible for working with members of the public to obtain legal documents, such as permits. For example, a court liaison might issue and renew liquor licenses to local restaurants and bars. Court liaisons often work with ex-offenders that must maintain current information with law enforcement, such as individuals that have been convicted of a sex-related crime.
What is a Juvenile Court Liaison?
Juvenile court liaisons serve many of the same essentials functions as liaisons in adult courts. There is much administrative work and support for other entities, from law enforcement to public schools to the family of the juvenile offender. There is also a heavy emphasis on coordination of various stakeholders regarding the legal process. Essentially, their duties revolve around ensuring court proceedings run as smoothly as possible.
Juvenile court liaisons are perhaps even more involved in the process than their adult court counterparts. They will work with even more entities, most specifically school districts, to facilitate information sharing from schools to the courts. There are also advocacy duties involved, with juvenile court liaisons serving to seek what is in the best interest of juveniles and their families in the court setting. Case management is a common duty as well, with juvenile court liaisons working directly with children and their families to coordinate needed services, such as counseling, legal assistance, or educational services.
Why Do We Need Court Liaisons?
Court liaisons perform the essential function of maintaining open communication and cooperation between the various agencies involved in court proceedings. In this regard, court liaisons are necessary to ensure that the legal process runs as smoothly as possible. Without them, courts run the risk of falling behind in the docket, as court liaisons carry out the administrative duties that keep the courts on schedule.
Likewise, court liaisons are important for law enforcement agencies as they do everything from scheduling officers’ appearances in court to preparing officers to provide testimony. For victims and offenders alike, court liaisons are important because they are tasked with ensuring that the documentation of the court case, specifically evidence from the police investigation, is released to the respective attorneys in a timely fashion.
How to Become a Court Liaison?
There are actually several routes one might take in order to become a court liaison. Most commonly, workers in this field have some combination of education and experience. This might include having several years of legal or police-related work experience as well as an associate’s degree. In this case, the associate’s degree would likely be most appropriate in the criminal justice field. At just two years in length, associate’s degree programs are suitable for entry-level positions as the content covered is typically basic in its form and depth.
In other cases, court liaisons may have less on-the-job experience and more education. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice would be an excellent educational option for this type of work. These programs, which usually take four years to complete, offer a more in-depth analysis of topics related to work in the criminal justice system. Typical coursework includes:
- Courts and prosecution processes
- Policing in America
- Ethics in criminal justice
- Police administration procedures
- Specialty studies in juvenile justice systems
Yet another pathway to a court liaison position is to combine more basic education, such as a high school diploma, with an extended period of relevant work experience, training, and/or certification. For example, a high school graduate that has attended law enforcement training and worked as a law enforcement officer for three to five years would be considered qualified to work as a court liaison in some locations. The specific requirements pertaining to education and experience vary from department to department and city to city.
In some instances, court liaisons are required to have advanced training, including a master’s degree with special licensing. For example, some agencies like non-profit or religious organizations, employ court liaisons to work directly with victims of crimes. In these cases, employers might require court liaisons to have a master’s degree or higher, usually in social work or a related field. For individuals that pursue this pathway, a master’s degree program in social work will prepare workers to meet the diverse needs of those involved in the criminal justice system. While much of the coursework in these graduate programs focuses on client services, the skills gained in working well with diverse groups, having excellent communication skills, and being proficient at completing paperwork and organizing information are highly beneficial for work as a court liaison.
Training for court liaisons is usually highly specific to the municipality in which they are employed. This typically involves training for computer programs used by the courts, policies and procedures for local law enforcement agencies, and instruction regarding local, state, and federal laws. Some agencies may require court liaisons to be trained as police officers, while others might require clerical or administrative training, such as the ability to meet certain minimum requirements for words typed per minute.
The vast majority of court liaisons are not required to have licensure of any type. However, liaisons that have a master’s degree in social work or a related field would be required by the state to hold a license to practice. Typical licensure requirements include successful completion of an accredited graduate program, a satisfactory score on a national examination, and completion of 1-2 years of supervised practice in a clinical setting.
What Personality Traits are Required for a Court Liaison?
There are a wide variety of personality traits that make a person well suited for employment as a court liaison. When considering employment in this field, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you organized?
Court liaisons are responsible for an incredible amount of information, from court dates to records pertaining to specific cases to communications between various stakeholders involved in the judicial system. As a result, court liaisons must have the ability to intake, organize, and output information in a timely fashion. Having the ability to meet deadlines, complete multiple tasks simultaneously, prioritize tasks, and handle work-related stress in a healthy manner will further one’s ability to remain organized.
Are you an effective communicator?
Court liaisons must have the ability to communicate effectively in written and oral forms. Communication must be clear and concise. Likewise, because court liaisons work with a whole host of people, they must be able to communicate well with diverse groups of people. As a result, respect for diversity, knowledge of judicial and law enforcement lingo, and an understanding of social and cultural communication considerations will help court liaisons be more effective communicators.
Do you understand the legal system?
Work with the courts requires court liaisons to be highly familiar with the legal system, including civil and criminal court proceedings, law enforcement terminology, and police codes. Additionally, knowledge of local laws, rules, regulations, and procedures is beneficial. Court liaisons must also be fully aware of and adhere to law enforcement policies. For example, a liaison working with the county sheriff’s department would need to follow the department’s code of ethics and behavior.
Do you enjoy helping others?
Much of the work that court liaisons do is for the benefit of others. Whether preparing documents or scheduling appointments for law enforcement officers or providing services directly to victims of crime, court liaisons should have the capacity to provide assistance and do so in a compassionate, professional, and timely manner.
Can you work effectively in an office environment?
Some people are well suited to jobs that require a lot of movement, heavy lifting, or work that takes place outdoors. Others are better equipped to work in an office environment. Court liaisons fall into the latter category. Workers in this field must be able to sit at a desk for long periods of time and perform clerical duties, such as typing, filing, and answering phones. They must also have the ability to work well with colleagues and members of the public, and maintain a professional appearance and demeanor in an office setting.
How Much Does a Court Liaison Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for court liaisons is $42,030, as of May 2019. The pay range for jobs in this field varies from a low of $26,000 per year to a high of $61,100 per year. The difference in pay is largely determined by one’s experience, with experienced workers earning higher incomes. Another primary determinant of wages is the employment setting.
Geographic location strongly influences wages as well. New York is the top-paying state, with an average wage of $58,690. California has above-average pay as well, at a rate of $51,520. Certain metropolitan areas offer wages well above average, including Nassau-Suffolk, New York, San Francisco, California, and Hartford, Connecticut.
What Careers are Similar to a Court Liaison?
Because court liaisons fulfill a wide variety of duties, there are many different occupations that are similar in nature, including:
Court Clerk – Clerks of court perform administrative duties, much like court liaisons. They manage court records, organize information for various entities involved in court proceedings, and in some cases, collect fees or payments that are due to the court. Entry-level court clerk positions can be had with just a high school diploma, although a more advanced education is often required in larger court systems and for advancement up the career ladder.
General Office Clerk – Office clerks are administrative workers, much like court liaisons. The primary duties involved with this position include maintaining files and records, scheduling appointments, answering phones, and other clerical duties. Because the vast majority of office clerk job duties are learned while on the job, entrance into this occupation generally requires just a high school diploma.
Community Liaison Officer – Community liaison officers focus in part on organizing community events that address a significant local issue. This might include organizing a neighborhood meeting to address a recent rise in crime rates. Liaison officers also often work to support law enforcement agencies by gathering facts and interviewing witnesses after a crime has been committed. Oftentimes, community liaison officers also work directly with victims to provide information about the legal process or law enforcement practices. Entry-level positions in this field require at least a high school diploma, with on-the-job training occurring once employment is undertaken.
What are the Opportunities for Advancement for a Court Liaison?
In some jurisdictions, there are levels of court liaison work, each with increasingly expanded responsibilities. Individuals just beginning their career would begin in an entry-level position, often referred to as Court Liaison Officer I. This position is heavily focused on the administrative duties discussed above, such as creating reports, scheduling appointments, or organizing files to share between various entities.
However, after some time on the job, anywhere from one to three years, advancement to a position of Court Liaison Officer II is possible. This position still involves much of the administrative duties of the junior position, however, expanded duties might include working directly with individuals in the court system, such as providing basic assessment and intervention services to juvenile or adult offenders. Work duties may be expanded to other court systems. For example, a Court Liaison Officer II might work with the criminal court, juvenile court, and family court as well. An essential feature of advancement in this field is that with experience comes less and less supervision and much more independent work.