The United States Marshals Service (USMS) is a federal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice (28 U.S.C. § 561). It is the oldest American federal law enforcement agency and was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 during the presidency of George Washington as the Office of the United States Marshal. The USMS as it stands today was established in 1969 to provide guidance and assistance to Marshals throughout the federal judicial districts. USMS is an agency of the United States executive branch reporting to the United States Attorney-General but serves as the enforcement arm of the United States federal courts to ensure the effective operation of the judiciary and integrity of the constitution.
The Marshals Service is the primary agency for fugitive operations, the protection of officers of the Federal Judiciary, the management of criminal assets, the operation of the United States Federal Witness Protection Program and the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, and execution of federal arrest warrants. Throughout its history, the Marshals have also provided unique security and enforcement services including protecting African American students enrolling in the South during the civil rights movement, escort security for United States Air Force LGM-30 Minuteman missile convoys, law enforcement for the United States Antarctic Program, and protection of the Strategic National Stockpile.
The office of United States Marshal was created by the First Congress. President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act into law on September 24, 1789. The Act provided that a United States Marshal's primary function was to execute all lawful warrants issued to him under the authority of the United States. The law defined marshals as officers of the courts charged with assisting federal courts in their law-enforcement functions:
And be it further enacted, That a marshal shall be appointed in and for each district for a term of four years, but shall be removable from office at pleasure, whose duty it shall be to attend the district and circuit courts when sitting therein, and also the Supreme Court in the district in which that court shall sit. And to execute throughout the district, all lawful precepts directed to him, and issued under the authority of the United States, and he shall have the power to command all necessary assistance in the execution of his duty, and to appoint as shall be occasion, one or more deputies.
The critical Supreme Court decision affirming the legal authority of the federal marshals was made in In re Neagle 135 U.S. 1 (1890).
For over 100 years marshals were patronage jobs, typically controlled by the district judge. They were paid primarily by fees until a salary system was set up in 1896.
Many of the first US Marshals had already proven themselves in military service during the American Revolution. Among the first marshals were John Adams's son-in-law Congressman William Stephens Smith for the District of New York, another New York district marshal, Congressman Thomas Morris, and Henry Dearborn for the district of Maine.
From the nation's earliest days, marshals were permitted to recruit special deputies as local hires, or as temporary transfers to the Marshals Service from other federal law-enforcement agencies. Marshals were also authorized to swear in a posse to assist with manhunts, and other duties, ad hoc. Marshals were given extensive authority to support the federal courts within their judicial districts, and to carry out all lawful orders issued by federal judges, Congress, or the President. Federal marshals were by far the most important government officials in territorial jurisdictions. Local law enforcement officials were often called "marshals" so there is often an ambiguity whether someone was a federal or a local official.
Federal marshals are most famous for their law enforcement work, but that was only a minor part of their workload. The largest part of the business was paper work—serving writs (e.g., subpoenas, summonses, warrants), and other processes issued by the courts, making arrests and handling all federal prisoners. They also disbursed funds as ordered by the courts. Marshals paid the fees and expenses of the court clerks, U.S. Attorneys, jurors, and witnesses. They rented the courtrooms and jail space, and hired the bailiffs, criers, and janitors. They made sure the prisoners were present, the jurors were available, and that the witnesses were on time.
The marshals thus provided local representation for the federal government within their districts. They took the national census every decade through 1870. They distributed presidential proclamations, collected a variety of statistical information on commerce and manufacturing, supplied the names of government employees for the national register, and performed other routine tasks needed for the central government to function effectively.
During the settlement of the American Frontier, marshals served as the main source of day-to-day law enforcement in areas that had no local government of their own. U.S. Marshals were instrumental in keeping law and order in the "Old West" era. They were involved in apprehending desperadoes such as Bill Doolin, Ned Christie, and, in 1893, the infamous Dalton Gang after a shoot-out that left Deputy Marshals Ham Hueston, Lafe Shadley, and posse member Dick Speed, dead. Individual deputy marshals have been seen as legendary heroes in the face of rampant lawlessness (see Notable marshals below) with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Dallas Stoudenmire, and Bass Reeves as examples of well-known marshals. Bill Tilghman, Heck Thomas, and Chris Madsen formed a legendary law enforcement trio known as "The Three Guardsmen" when they worked together policing the vast, lawless Oklahoma and Indian Territories.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 tasked marshals to enforce the law, recover and arrest fugitive slaves. Any negligence in doing so exposed marshals and deputies to severe financial penalties.
On October 26, 1881, Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers, Special Deputy U.S. Marshals Morgan and Wyatt Earp, and Special Deputy U.S. Marshal John "Doc" H. Holliday gunned down Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton in the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
In 1894, U.S. Marshals helped suppress the Pullman Strike.
During the 1920s, U.S. Marshals enforced Prohibition.
In the 1960s the marshals were on the front lines of the civil rights movement, mainly providing protection to volunteers. In September 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered 127 marshals to accompany James Meredith, an African American who wished to register at the segregated University of Mississippi. Their presence on campus provoked riots at the university, but the marshals stood their ground, and Meredith registered. Marshals provided continuous protection to Meredith during his first year at Ole Miss, and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy later proudly displayed a deputy marshal's dented helmet in his office. U.S. Marshals also protected black school children integrating public schools in the South. Artist Norman Rockwell's famous painting The Problem We All Live With depicted a tiny Ruby Bridges being escorted by four towering United States Marshals in 1964.
Until 1965, each U.S. District Court hired and administered its own marshals independently from all others. In 1965, the Executive Office for US Marshals, was created as "the first organization to supervise U.S. Marshals nationwide". The United States Marshals Service, a federal agency, was created in 1969
Since June 1975, the Marshals Service have the mission of providing law enforcement support and escort security to United States Air Force LGM-30 Minuteman and missile systems from military facilities.
Marshals have protected American athletes at Olympic Games, the refugee boy Elián González before his return to Cuba in 2000, and abortion clinics as required by federal law. In 2003, Marshals retrieved North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights.
In 2002, the Marshals Service was tasked by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide protective security and law enforcement capabilities in the protection of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), such as warehouses, materiel and CDC personnel during deployment. Marshals also provide secure transportation of critical medical supplies and bio-terrorism response resources throughout the nation. Senior Inspectors of the US Marshals Service SNS Security Operations (SNSSO) Program have deployed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and responded during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009. SNSSO Senior Inspectors have also staffed National Security Special Events (NSSE) with their state, local and other federal partners on a regular basis.
In February 2017, Marshals began providing protective security to United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the first time since 2009 that a United States Cabinet-level official has been provided security by the Marshals.
The Marshals Service is responsible for apprehending wanted fugitives, providing protection for the federal judiciary, transporting federal prisoners, protecting endangered federal witnesses, and managing assets seized from criminal enterprises. The Marshals Service is responsible for 55.2% of arrests of federal fugitives. Between 1981 and 1985, the Marshals Service conducted Fugitive Investigative Strike Team operations to jump-start fugitive capture in specific districts. In 2012, U.S. marshals captured over 36,000 federal fugitives and cleared over 39,000 fugitive warrants.
The Marshals Service also executes all lawful writs, processes, and orders issued under the authority of the United States, and shall command all necessary assistance to execute its duties.
U.S. Marshals also have the common law-based power to enlist any willing civilians as deputies. In the Old West this was known as forming a posse, although under the Posse Comitatus Act, they cannot use military troops in uniform representing their unit or the military service for law enforcement duties. However, if a serviceman/woman is off duty, wearing civilian clothing, and willing to assist a law enforcement officer on his/her own behalf, it is acceptable.
Title 28 USC Chapter 37 § 564. authorizes United States Marshals, deputy marshals and such other officials of the Service as may be designated by the Director, in executing the laws of the United States within a State, to exercise the same powers which a sheriff of the State may exercise in executing the laws thereof.
Except for suits by incarcerated persons, non-prisoner litigants proceeding in forma pauperis, or (in some circumstances) by seamen, U.S. Marshals no longer serve leading process or subpoenas in private civil actions filed in the U.S. district courts. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, process may be served by any U.S. citizen over the age of 18 who is not a party involved in the case. The Marshals still levy executions and serve writs of garnishment.
A chief responsibility of the Marshals is the United States Federal Witness Protection Program.
The Marshals Service publicizes the names of wanted persons it places on the list of U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitives, which is similar to and sometimes overlaps the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Most Wanted List, depending on jurisdiction.
The 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program was established in 1983 in an effort to prioritize the investigation and apprehension of high-profile offenders who are considered to be some of the country's most dangerous fugitives. These offenders tend to be career criminals with histories of violence or whose instant offense(s) pose a significant threat to public safety. Current and past fugitives in this program include murderers, sex offenders, major drug kingpins, organized crime figures, and individuals wanted for high-profile financial crimes.
The Major Case Fugitive Program was established in 1985 in an effort to supplement the successful 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program. Much like the 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program, the Major Case Fugitive Program prioritizes the investigation and apprehension of high-profile offenders who are considered to be some of the country's most dangerous individuals. All escapes from custody are automatically elevated to Major Case status.
The Special Operations Group (SOG) was created in 1971, and is the Marshals Service's specially trained and highly disciplined tactical unit. It is a self-supporting response team capable of responding to emergencies anywhere in the US or its territories. Most of the deputy marshals who have volunteered to be SOG members serve as full-time deputies in Marshals Service offices throughout the nation, and they remain on call 24 hours a day. The SOG also maintains a small, full-time operational cadre stationed at the Marshals Service Tactical Operations Center at Camp Beauregard, where all deputies undergo extensive, specialized training in tactics and weaponry. Deputies must meet rigorous physical and mental standards. The group's missions include: apprehending fugitives, protecting dignitaries, providing court security, transporting high-profile and dangerous prisoners, providing witness security, and seizing assets.
Marshals Service hiring is competitive and comparable to the selection process for Special Agent positions in sister agencies. Typically fewer than five percent of qualified applicants are hired and must possess at a minimum a four-year bachelor's degree or competitive work experience (which is usually three or more years at a local or state police department). While the USMS's hiring process is not entirely in the public domain, applicants must pass a written test, an oral board interview, an extensive background investigation, a medical examination and drug test, and multiple Fitness In Total (FIT) exams to be selected for training. Deputy U.S. Marshals complete a 21 1/2-week training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.
The primary handgun for marshals are Glock pistols in .40 S&W caliber (22, 23, 27), and each deputy may carry a backup handgun of their choice if it meets certain requirements. Deputy Marshals are also equipped with body armor and collapsible batons for daily use, and ballistic shields, helmets, and protective goggles for serving high risk warrants.
Members of the U.S. Marshal SOG Teams are armed with Colt 9mm SMG with Knight's Armament Company suppressor, HK MP-5 9mm SMG, Remington 870 and Ithaca DS 12-gauge shotguns, .357 magnum revolver, Smith & Wesson Model 654 .45cal pistol, Beretta 9mm pistol, Remington 700 .308 cal sniper rifle with scopes, M16A2 and CAR-15 rifles
The Marshals Service is based in Arlington, Virginia, and, under the authority and direction of the Attorney General, is headed by a Director, who is assisted by a Deputy Director. The Marshals Service headquarters provides command, control, and cooperation for the disparate elements of the service.
The US court system is divided into 94 federal judicial districts, each with a district court (except the territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which share a US Marshal). For each district there is a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed United States marshal, a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (GS-14 or 15) (and an Assistant Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (GS-14) in certain larger districts), Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshals (GS-13), and as many deputy U.S. Marshals (GS-7 and above) and special deputy U.S. Marshals as needed. In the United States federal budget for 2005, funds for 3,067 deputy marshals and criminal investigators were provided. The U.S. Marshal for United States courts of appeals (the 13 circuit courts) is the U.S. Marshal in whose district that court is physically located.
The director and each United States Marshal are appointed by the President of the United States and subject to confirmation by the United States Senate. The District U.S. Marshal is traditionally appointed from a list of qualified law enforcement personnel for that district or state. Each state has at least one district, while several larger states have three or more.
Deputy U.S. Marshals start their careers as 0082 basic Deputy U.S. Marshals at the GS-7 pay grade. After the first year in grade, they are promoted to GS-9, the following year GS-11, and finally journeyman GS-12 (automatic progression to the grade of GS-13 is under consideration). Once deputies reach the GS-11 pay grade, they are reclassified as 1811 Criminal Investigators. Criminal Investigators work additional hours and receive an additional 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay on top of their base pay.
Deputies perform criminal investigations, execute warrants, and other investigative operations. They also protect government officials, process seized assets of crime rings for investigative agencies, and relocate and arrange new identities for federal witnesses in the United States Federal Witness Protection Program, which is headed by the USMS. After Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act, the U.S. Marshals Service was chosen to head the new federal sex offender tracking and prosecution hot team.
Court Security Officers (CSOs) are contracted former law enforcement officers who receive limited deputations as armed Special Deputy Marshals and play a role in courthouse security. Using security screening systems, Court Security Officers attempt to detect and intercept weapons and other prohibited items that individuals attempt to bring into federal courthouses. There are more than 4,700 Court Security Officers with certified law enforcement experience deployed at more than 400 federal court facilities in the United States and its territories.
DEOs (1802s) are responsible for the care of prisoners in USMS custody. They also are tasked with the responsibility of conducting administrative remedies for the U.S. Marshal. DEOs can be seen transporting, booking and securing federal prisoners while in USMS custody. They also provide courtroom safety and cell block security.
Detention enforcement officers are deputized and fully commissioned federal law enforcement officers by the U.S. marshal. They are authorized to carry firearms and conduct all official business on behalf of the agency. Not all districts employ detention enforcement officers.
This title was created for promotions within the service usually for senior non-supervisory personnel. Operational (GS-1811-13), non-supervisory, employees assigned to the Witness Protection Program are given the title Senior Inspector. Senior DUSMs assigned to regional fugitive task forces or working in special assignments requiring highly skilled criminal investigators often receive the title Inspector. Deputy marshals assigned to The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement (OCDETF) department within the USMS also hold the title of Senior Inspector. Inspectors receive a GS-13 pay grade level. The titles of Senior Inspector and Chief Inspector are also sometimes used in the service for certain assignments and positions within the agency.
More than 200 U.S. Marshals, deputy marshals, and special deputy marshals have been killed in the line of duty since Marshal Robert Forsyth was shot dead by an intended recipient of court papers in Augusta, Georgia, on January 11, 1794. He was the first U.S. federal law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty. The dead are remembered on an Honor Roll permanently displayed at Headquarters.
An audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) (November 2010) of the Justice Department found "weaknesses in the USMS's efforts to secure federal court facilities in the six USMS district offices we visited". The report found, among other things, that the Marshals Service's Judicial Security Division had contracted private security firms to provide Court Security Officers without having completed background checks. Another incident involved the Marshals Service awarding a $300 million contract to a firm[specify] that had a known history of numerous criminal activities leading to convictions for mail fraud and bank fraud and false insurance claims in addition to a civil judgment against its Chief Financial Officer. Technical problems included Court Security Officers not being properly trained on security screening equipment, which also meant equipment not being used. The OIG noted that in February 2009, several courthouses failed to detect mock explosives sent by Marshals Service Headquarters in order to test security procedures. They also found that eighteen percent of Court Security Officers had outdated firearms qualifications.
On March 26, 2009, the body of Deputy U.S. Marshal Vincent Bustamante was discovered in Juarez, Mexico, according to the Marshals Service. Bustamante, who was accused of stealing and pawning government property, was a fugitive from the law at the time of his death. Chihuahua State Police said the body had multiple wounds to the head – apparently consistent with an execution-style shooting.
In January 2007, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Thomas Ambrose was charged with theft of Justice Department property, disclosure of confidential information, and lying to federal agents during an investigation. Deputy Ambrose had been in charge of protecting mobster-turned-informant Nicholas Calabrese, who was instrumental in sending three mob bosses to prison for life. A federal jury convicted Ambrose on April 27, 2009, of leaking secret government information concerning Calabrese to William Guide, a family friend and former Chicago police officer who had also served time in prison for corruption. Ambrose also was convicted of theft of government property but acquitted of lying to federal agents. On October 27, 2009, Ambrose was sentenced to serve four years in prison.
In 1998, retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg won a landmark EEO and Title VII racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the Justice Department, for which he was awarded $4 million. The jury found the entire Marshals Service to be a "racially hostile environment" which discriminates against blacks in its promotion practices. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson summarized the jurors' decision by stating that they felt there was an "atmosphere of racial disharmony and mistrust within the United States Marshal Service". As of 2011, Fogg is president of "Bigots with Badges", and executive director of CARCLE (Congress Against Racism and Corruption in Law Enforcement), and is also associated with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a drug law reform organization of law enforcement officers.
The Department of Justice under Janet Reno acknowledged wrongdoing in U.S. Marshals decisions surrounding a firefight at Ruby Ridge in 1992, where it is alleged that a Deputy U.S. Marshal shot 14-year-old Samuel Weaver in the back. Deputy US Marshals who were involved in a gunfight with Weaver's father, who was wanted on a federal warrant for failure to appear, and another individual. Deputy United States Marshals dispute this claim. Deputy U.S. Marshal Billy Deegan was killed during a surveillance operation after identifying himself as a federal agent. This led to an extended gunfight in which both sides fired several rounds. Tragically, Samuel Weaver was shot and killed. His body was taken to a small building for more than a week and an autopsy was unable to determine entry and exit wounds (see Idaho Federal Court Transcripts for clarification of this incident). "Newsweek" described the incident as "one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American law enforcement."
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