The role of the Bailiff
The Bailiff of Jersey is the President of the States and acts as Speaker of the Assembly in the Westminster tradition. He is responsible for the orderly conduct of the States Assembly and its business. As Presiding Officer he has the right of speech – which is mainly exercised for ensuring the orderly conduct of the proceedings – but he cannot vote.
The Bailiff is appointed by the Crown after consultation within the Island and can hold office until the end of the period specified in the Letters Patent; usually the age of 70.
In the absence of the Bailiff, the Deputy Bailiff acts as President of the States. In the unavoidable absence of both the Bailiff and the Deputy Bailiff, the Bailiff chooses an elected Member or the Greffier or Deputy Greffier of the States to preside in the Assembly.
As President of the States the Bailiff is responsible for ruling on the admissibility of questions and propositions. These are referred to him for approval by the Greffier of the States when they are submitted by members.
The Bailiff also has other important roles in Jersey. He is President of the Royal Court and civic head of the Island with responsibility for official communication with the United Kingdom authorities.
The Bailiff's seat
The Bailiff’s seat in the States Assembly is 7 inches higher than that of the Lieutenant-Governor’s to emphasise the fact that in the States Chamber and the Royal Court, in matters concerning the governance of the Island, the Bailiff has precedence.
In 1618, following disputes between the then Governor Sir John Payton and the Bailiff, Jean Hérault, the Privy Council ruled that ‘the Bailiff shall in the cohue (court) and seat of justice and likewise in the assembly of the States, take the seat of precedence as formerly, and that in all other places and assemblies the Governor take place and precedence which is due unto him as Governor, without further question’.
Sir Michael Birt
The present Bailiff of Jersey is Sir Michael Birt. He became a member of the States in 1994 when he was sworn in as HM Attorney General. He was sworn in as Deputy Bailiff in February 2000 and took his oath of office as Bailiff on 9 July 2009. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in the Birthday Honours of 2012.