The administrative network of baillages was established in the 13th century over the king's land (the domaine royal), notably by Philippe Auguste. They were based on the earlier medieval fiscal and tax divisions (the "baillie") which had been used by earlier sovereign princes (such as the Duke of Normandy). The creation of the royal bailliages reduced prior existing judicial courts to a subaltern rank; these lower courts were called:
The court or tribunal of the bailliage was presided by a lieutenant général du bailli. Tribunals in bailliages and sénéchaussées were the first court of appeal for lower courts, but the court of first instance for affairs involving the nobility. To appeal their decisions, one turned to the regional parlements. In an effort to reduce the case load in the parlements, certain bailliages were given extended powers by Henri II of France: these were called présidiaux. Bailliages and présidiaux were also the first court for certain crimes (these cases had formerly been under the supervision of the local seigneurs): sacrilege, lèse-majesté, kidnapping, rape, heresy, alteration of money, sedition, insurrections, and the illegal carrying of arms.
By the late 16th century, the role of the "bailli" had become merely honorary, and judicial power was invested solely in the lieutenant général of the bailliage. The administrative and financial role of the bailliages and sénéchaussées declined in the early modern period (superseded by the king's royal tax collectors and regional gouverneurs, and later by the intendants), and by the end of the 18th century, the bailliages, which numbered into the hundreds, served only a judicial function.
In French, a court bailiff is called a "huissier de justice".
The official judicial tasks are often supplemented by tasks as independent entrepreneurs, for instance for non-judicial debt collecting, specific judicial advice or writing general conditions of sale, judicial assistance at lower courts (canton level), etc.
High Court enforcement officers are employed by private companies and carry out enforcement for the High Court of Justice - they have almost the same function as County Court Bailiffs except the court for which they work.
Certificated bailiffs are employed by private companies and enforce a variety of debts on behalf of organisations such as local authorities. They can seize and sell goods to cover the amount of the debt owed. They also hold a certificate, which enables them, and them alone, to levy distress for rent, road traffic debts, council tax and non-domestic rates. They cannot enforce the collection of money due under High Court or county court orders.
Non-certificated bailiffs are employed by private companies and are entitled to recover the money owed for a variety of debts by seizing and selling your goods but cannot levy distress for rent, road traffic debts, council tax or non-domestic rates, or enforce the collection of money due under High Court or county court orders.
In England & Wales, the bailiff of a franchise or liberty is the officer who executes writs and processes, and impanels juries within the franchise. He is appointed by the lord of such franchise (who, in the Sheriffs Act 1887, § 34, is referred to as the bailiff of the franchise).
The bailiff of a sheriff is an under-officer employed by a sheriff within a county for the purpose of executing writs, processes, distraints and arrests. As a sheriff is liable for the acts of his officers acting under his warrant, his bailiffs are annually bound to him in an obligation with sureties for the faithful discharge of their office, and thence are called bound bailiffs. They are also often called 'bum-bailiffs', or, shortly, 'bums'. The origin of this word is uncertain; the New English Dictionary suggests that it is in allusion to the mode of catching the offender. Special bailiffs are officers appointed by the sheriff at the request of a plaintiff for the purpose of executing a particular process. The appointment of a special bailiff relieves the sheriff from all responsibility until the party is arrested and delivered into the sheriff's actual custody.
By the County Courts Act 1888, it is provided that there shall be one or more high bailiffs, appointed by the judge and removable by the Lord Chancellor; and every person discharging the duties of high bailiff is empowered to appoint a sufficient number of able and fit persons as bailiffs to assist him, whom he can dismiss at his pleasure. The duty of the high bailiff is to serve all summonses and orders, and execute all the warrants, precepts and writs issued out of the court. The high bailiff is responsible for all the acts and defaults of himself, and of the bailiffs appointed to assist him, in the same way as a sheriff of a county is responsible for the acts and defaults of himself and his officers. By the same act (§49) bailiffs are answerable for any connivance, omission or neglect to levy any such execution. No action can be brought against a bailiff acting under order of the court without six days' notice (§52). Any warrant to a bailiff to give possession of a tenement justifies him in entering upon the premises named in the warrant, and giving possession, provided the entry be made between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. (§ 142). The Law of Distress Amendment Act 1888 enacts that no person may act as a bailiff to levy any distress for rent, unless he is authorized by a County Court judge to act as a bailiff.
Under the new arrangements the bailies were abolished and replaced by Justices of the Peace serving in the District Courts of Scotland, these posts no longer holding any authority within the local authority as an administrative body. However the term bailie is still used as an honorary title by Glasgow City Council for a number of senior councillors who can deputise for the Lord Provost.
The Scottish equivalent of a sheriff's bailiff or high bailiff is the sheriff officer (for the Sheriff Court) or the messenger-at-arms (for the Court of Session). These positions have been abolished by §60 of the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007, and replaced with the office of Judicial Officer under §57(1) of that enactment.
In the Channel Islands the bailiff is the first civil officer in each of the two bailiwicks. He is appointed by the Crown, and holds office until retirement. He presides as a judge in the Royal Court, and takes the opinions of the jurats; he also presides over the States, and represents the Crown on civic occasions. The bailiff in each island must, in order to fulfill his judicial role, be a qualified lawyer.
In Ontario, provincial bailiffs provide primary transportation of prisoners between correctional facilities such as jails and prisons. Under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act (Ontario), while transporting prisoners, bailiffs have the powers of police constables. When necessary, Provincial correctional officers will act as bailiffs for short and long term assignments and full-time bailiffs are typically recruited from the correctional officer ranks. Provincial bailiffs are armed with expandable batons and pepper spray and operate under the jurisdiction of the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Duties normally associated with bailiffs in other jurisdictions, such as evictions, seizures, and other civil matters, are performed by sheriffs under the office of the Attorney General of Ontario.
From its staff, the Court may appoint by court order bailiff's as peace officers, who shall have, during the stated terms of such appointment, such powers normally incident to police officers, including, but not limited to, the power to make arrests in a criminal case, provided that the exercise of such powers shall be limited to any building or real property maintained or used as a courthouse or in support of judicial functions.
Whatever the name used, the agency providing court security is often charged with serving legal process and seizing and selling property (e.g., replevin or foreclosure). In some cases, the duties are separated between agencies in a given jurisdiction. For instance, a court officer may provide courtroom security in a jurisdiction where a sheriff handles service of process and seizures.