The Marshals Service is part of the executive branch of government, and is the enforcement arm of the U.S. federal courts. The U.S. Marshals are the primary agency for fugitive operations. U.S. Marshals are also responsible for the protection of officers of the court, court buildings and the effective operation of the judiciary. The service also assists with court security, prisoner transport, and serves arrest warrants.
The office of United States marshal was created by the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. The act specifically determined that the U.S. marshals' primary function was to execute all lawful precepts issued to him and under the authority of the United States. Therefore it appropriately defined marshals as officers of the courts charged with assisting the courts in their law enforcement functions.
The text of Section 27 of the Judiciary Act reads:
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 Marshals Service itself, as a federal agency, was not created until 1969. It succeeded the Executive Office for United States Marshals, itself created in 1965 as "the first organization to supervise U.S. Marshals nationwide".
Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government, I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound the law, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.
From the earliest days of the nation 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 them in 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.
The marshals and their deputies served writs (e.g., subpoenas, summonses, warrants), and other process issued by the courts, made all the arrests, and handled 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.
When President George Washington set up his first administration, and the first Congress began passing laws, both quickly discovered an inconvenient gap in the constitutional design of the government: It had no provision for a regional administrative structure stretching throughout the country. Both the Congress and the executive branch were housed at the national capital; no agency was established or designated to represent the federal government's interests at other localities. The need for a regional organization quickly became apparent. Congress and the President solved part of the problem by creating specialized agencies, such as customs and revenue collectors, to levy tariffs and taxes, yet there were numerous other jobs that needed to be done. The only officers available to do them were the marshals and their deputies.
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.
Congress, the president, and governors have called on the marshals for over 200 years to carry out unusual or extraordinary missions, such as registering enemy aliens in time of war, sealing the American border against armed expeditions from foreign countries, and, at times during the Cold War, swapping spies with the Soviet Union, and also retrieving North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights. Individual deputy marshals, particularly in the American West, have been seen as legendary heroes in the face of rampant lawlessness (see Famous marshals, below).
One of the more onerous jobs the marshals were tasked with was the recovery of fugitive slaves, as required by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. They were also permitted to form a posse and to deputize any person in any community to aid in the recapture of fugitive slaves. Failure to cooperate with a marshal resulted in a $5000 fine and imprisonment, a significant penalty in those days. The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was a celebrated fugitive-slave case involving U.S. marshals. James Batchelder was the second marshal killed in the line of duty. Batchelder, along with others, was preventing the rescue of fugitive slave Anthony Burns in Boston in 1854.
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 process 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.
Bat Masterson and other deputy marshals. Wild West
The Marshals Service is responsible for apprehending wanted fugitives, providing protection for the federal judiciary, transporting federal prisoners (see JPATS), 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 United States 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 troops for law enforcement duties while in uniform representing their unit, or the military service. However if serviceman/woman is off duty, wearing civilian clothing, and willing to assist a law enforcement officer on his/her own behalf, it is acceptable.
Lastly, 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.
The United States 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. USMS Headquarters provides command, control, and cooperation for the disparate elements of the service.
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
Equipment used by the USMS
Training and job duties
U.S. Marshals Service hiring is competitive and comparable to the selection process for Special Agent positions in sister agencies. Typically less than 5% of qualified applicants are hired and must possess at a minimum a four-year bachelor 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 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.
Marshals arrest a suspect
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..
Federal air marshals are not deputy U.S. marshals. The TSA-Federal Air Marshal Program is not affiliated with the U.S. Marshals Service
Deputy marshals do not guard Federal buildings. Homeland Security (DHS-FPS) is charged with protecting the Federal facilities. Court Security Officers (CSO) handle entrance and courthouse security.
Director of the United States Marshals Service: originally titled the Chief United States Marshal, top executive of the entire U.S. Marshals Service
United States Marshal: for the top executive Marshals Service position (political appointment) in a federal judicial district
Chief Deputy United States Marshal: the senior career manager for the federal judicial district who is responsible for management of the Marshals office and staff
Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal: for positions in the Marshals Service responsible for the supervision of three or more deputy U.S. marshals and clerks
Deputy United States Marshal: for all nonsupervisory positions classifiable to this series
This title was created for promotions within the service usually for senior non-supervisory personnel. Senior deputy U.S. marshals (DUSM) assigned to the Witness Protection Program are given the title 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 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.
Special deputy U.S. marshals
The Director of the Marshals Service is authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 561(d) (authorizing Director of Marshals Service to appoint "such employees as are necessary to carry out the powers and duties of the Service") to deputize the following individuals to perform the functions of deputy marshals: selected officers or employees of the Department of Justice; federal, state or local law enforcement officers; members of the United States Coast Guard; when appropriate, private security personnel to provide courtroom security for the Federal judiciary; and other persons designated by the Associate Attorney General.
Court security officers
Court security officers 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, CSOs attempt to detect and intercept weapons and other prohibited items that individuals attempt to bring into federal courthouses. There are more than 4,700 CSOs with certified law enforcement experience deployed at more than 400 federal court facilities in the United States and its territories.
Detention enforcement officer
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.
Special Operations Group (SOG)
The Special Operations Group (SOG) is a specially trained and highly disciplined tactical unit of the US Marshals Service. It is a self-supporting response team capable of responding to emergencies anywhere in the United States 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 for SOG missions. The SOG also maintains a small, full-time operational cadre stationed at the Marshals Service Tactical Operations Center at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. There, all SOG deputies undergo extensive, specialized training in tactics and weaponry. These 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.Members of the U.S. Marshal SOG Teams are armed with M1911A1 Springfield pro rail Pistol (.45 ACP). Marshals are also equipped with AR-15s and 12-gauge Remington 870shotguns.
As a less-than-lethal option, marshals are armed with the ASP batons and OC pepper sprays.
The primary handgun for marshals is the Glock pistols in .40 S&Wcaliber (22, 23, 27), and each deputy may carry a backup handgun of their choice if it meets certain requirements.
Line of duty deaths
More than 200 U.S. marshals, deputy marshals, and special deputy marshals have been slain 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. government Law Officer killed in the line of duty. The dead are remembered on an Honor Roll permanently displayed at Headquarters.
On March 26, 2009, the body of Deputy U.S. Marshal Vincent Bustamante was discovered in Juarez, Mexico, according to the U.S. 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 VIIracial 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.
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 USMS Judicial Security Division had contracted private security firms to provide CSOs (Court Security Officers) without having completed background checks. Another incident involved the USMS awarding a $300 million contract to a firm 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 CSOs 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 USMS HQ in order to test security procedures. They also found that eighteen percent of CSOs had outdated firearms qualifications.
Bass Reeves (July 1838 – January 1910) is thought by most to be one of the first Black men to receive a commission as a U.S. deputy marshal west of the Mississippi River. Before he retired from federal service in 1907, Reeves had arrested over 3,000 felons.
Dallas Stoudenmire (1845–1882), successful city marshal who tamed and controlled a remote, wild and violent town of El Paso, Texas; became U.S. marshal serving West Texas and New Mexico Territory just before his death
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.
1996 short story "Karen Makes Out" and the novel Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard tells the story of a romance between a U.S. marshal and a bank robber. In 1998, the book was made into a movie. The character of the U.S. marshal later appeared in the short-lived TV series Karen Sisco.
The 2003 novel Shutter Island features two of its main characters as U.S. marshals. It was adapted into film in 2010.
Anita Blake is a U.S. marshal in a special branch dealing with supernatural crimes in the Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Robert B.
United States Marshal (originally titled "Sheriff of Cochise") was a 1958-1960 series about Marshal Frank Morgan (John Bromfield). The series was set in the American southwest and featured contemporary stories about crime in the 1950s.
The American/Australian science-fiction television series Time Trax – aired from 1993-1994 – featured time-traveling police detective Darien Lambert from two centuries in the future, traveling back to present day to apprehend fugitives plotting misdeeds with 22nd-century technology and return them to their proper time. His cover in present day was as a U.S. marshal, as it is the role of that office to apprehend fugitives.
Beginning in 2004, the character Edward Mars in Season 1 and Season 6 of the TV series Lost portrays a U.S. marshal obsessed with apprehending Kate Austen, a character who has murdered her abusive stepfather and previously escaped from the same marshal.
In 2006 the SciFi Channel launched the original series Eureka in which the main protagonist is a United States marshal named Jack Carter, and set in the fictional town of Eureka. Jack stumbles on the highly secure location where the government works on super high-tech programs, and in the course of assisting with an investigation, becomes the town sheriff.
Since March 6, 2011 A&E Network has aired Breakout Kings, a drama television series revolving around a task force of convicted criminals and U.S. marshals working together in order to try and catch fugitives escaped from prison. The story is that the cons' sentences are reduced by one month for each fugitive they bring in; however if any of them should try to escape, they will all be returned to their original prisons and their sentences will be doubled.
In the The Spanish Prisoner, a 1997 American suspense film, the climax involves rescue of the film's hero by a team of U.S. marshals. Contrary to their depiction in the film, the United States Marshals Service would not investigate the crime depicted, theft of intellectual property, which in the United States would be treated as a state offense.
In the 1998 US Marshals (film) Tommy Lee Jones stars as a Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard tasked with hunting an escaped fugitive.
In the 1999 film Wild Wild West, Will Smith plays U.S. Marshal Jim West and Kevin Kline plays Artemus Gordon, a marshal known for his crazy inventions, who are after a fugitive named Dr. Loveless.
The 2009 film Whiteout starred Kate Beckinsale as Deputy US Marshal Carrie Stetko.
In the 2010 movie Shutter Island, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are U.S marshals searching for a missing escapee from a psychiatric facility on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.
The Virgil Cole novel "Appaloosa", by Robert B. Parker, was made into a movie starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen.
The video game Prey 2, published by Bethesda Softworks, features a U.S. marshal named Kilian Samuels who is one of the victims of alien abduction portrayed in the 2006 game Prey. Set several years after the first game, he works as a bounty hunter, apprehending interstellar fugitives of varying species just as he did on Earth as a marshal.
Many U.S marshals appear in the 2010 video game Red Dead Redemption. They will pursue the playable character if he gains a large enough bounty.