Broad Range of Authority
The offices of U.S. Marshals and
Deputy Marshal were created by the first Congress in the Judiciary Act
of 1789, the same legislation that established the Federal judicial
system. The Marshals were given extensive authority to support the
federal courts within their judicial districts and to carry out all
lawful orders issued by judges, Congress, or the president.
As a balance to this broad grant of authority, Congress imposed a
time limit on the tenure of Marshals, the only office created by the
Judiciary Act with an automatic expiration. Marshals were limited to
four-year, renewable terms, serving at the pleasure of the president.
Until the mid-20th century, the Marshals hired their own
Deputies, often firing the Deputies who had worked for the previous
Marshal. Thus, the limitation on the Marshal's term of office frequently
extended to the Deputies as well.
Their primary function was to
support the federal courts. The Marshals and their Deputies served the
subpoenas, summonses, writs, warrants and other process issued by the
courts, made all the arrests and handled all the prisoners. They also
disbursed the money. The 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.
In effect, they ensured that the courts functioned smoothly.
Inspired by the rich
history of the Marshals Service, Donald V. Crowley created the painting
"Justice" as a tribute to the U.S. Marshals Service's 200
1989. © 1989 The Greenwich Workshop, Inc.,
Trumbell, CT 06611
Marshals took care of the details, thereby freeing the judges and
attorneys to concentrate on the cases before them. They made sure the
water pitchers were filled, the prisoners were present, the jurors were
available and the witnesses were on time.
But this was only a part of what the Marshals did. When 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 were housed at the national capital.
No agency was established or designated to
represent the federal government's interests at the local level. 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 the tariffs
and taxes. Yet, there were numerous other jobs that needed to be done.
The only officers available to do them were the U.S. Marshals and their
George Washington sits astride his horse as snow falls around him. Passing before him is a ragtag procession of dispirited soldiers headed
for Valley Forge. Among them are three future U.S. Marshals.
"The March to Valley Forge" by William B.T. Trego
This painting was completed in 1883 for a contest for the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Thus, the Marshals also provided local representation for the Federal
government within their districts. They took the national
census every 10 years 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 preformed other routine tasks needed for
the central government to function effectively.
Over the past 200 years, Congress and the president also called on
the Marshals to carry out unusual or extraordinary
missions such as; registering enemy aliens in time of war, capturing
fugitive slaves, sealing the American border against armed expeditions
aimed at foreign countries and swapping spies with the Soviet Union.
continued... General Practitioners