Bailiff helps keep courthouse in order

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Looking into a wooden cabinet with a TV displaying 12 split screens, Bill Askew monitors everyone coming, going and moving around the Curry County Courthouse.

For the last five years, Askew, 41, has been a handcuff- and mace-bearing bailiff in charge of security. He sits at a desk beyond a walk-through metal detector on the second floor of the courthouse.

A Clovis native, father of three and pastor at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, he previously worked as a guard at a Texas prison and at a home for troubled boys. He said being a court bailiff gives him more of an opportunity to smile.

“In a setting of high stress and intensity it’s nice to see a smiling face,” said District Attorney Matt Chandler, who interacts with Askew almost daily.

Armando Aguilar, a custodial worker at the court, said Askew has a unique view on cases.

“As a pastor and a bailiff, Bill sees a case from both sides,” Aguilar said.

Among Askew’s duties is enforcing a court dress code. On Tuesday, Askew told a defendant wearing a T-shirt depicting a naked lady to turn it inside out before allowing the man to walk through the metal detector.

About once a day, Askew said he has to tell visitors to remove their pocket knives before walking beyond the metal detector.

Askew knows which defendants, lawyers and witnesses to expect because judges drop off case dockets at his desk every day, he said. Defendants are divided into three levels based on the seriousness of the crime. Askew doesn’t usually look up cases but pays attention to the level of the crime, he said.

While most people are straight-faced as they walk through the metal detector, he said, some are visibly upset.

Askew called the Sheriff’s Office Monday for assistance because of a screaming match that erupted between an estranged couple, he said.

One of three bailiffs at the courthouse, Askew also works with the Sheriff’s Office to help transport prisoners to and from court and the Adult Detention Center across the street, he said.