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U.S. Marshals Service

History - The U.S. Marshals and Court Security

Protection of Federal Judges

Based on this historical event, the Supreme Court held that the President has power, through the Attorney General, to direct a United States Marshal to accompany and protect federal judges from a threatened assault.

The drawing below depicts perhaps the most dramatic incident ever to involve a Deputy  working in a court security role. Deputy U.S. Marshal David Neagle shot and killed David S. Terry after Terry had been ordered to stop assaulting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field.

While this historic incident occurred on August 14, 1889, it is not far removed from situations U.S. Marshals face today involving judicial security. Terry's death was the end of a long and bitter dispute he had with the federal courts.  (While this was a private matter, there is some suggestion in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion Cunningham v. Neagle, U.S. 1 (1890), that David Terry was himself a local judge.)

Cunningham v. Neagle

David S. Terry and his wife Sarah had been involved as defendants in a court proceeding before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the Northern District of California. This court proceeding been in 1883. In January 1886, a U.S. Circuit Court Judge and a U.S. District Court Judge sitting as a Circuit Judge rendered a decision against the defendants. The Terrys were jailed to comply with the Court's order, but returned to court in March 1888 seeking further relief. Oral argument was heard before Justice Stephen J. Field, sitting as Circuit Court Justice, circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer, and District Court Judge Sabin. The Court took the matter under advisement. After the court hearing Judge Sawyer encountered the Terrys on a train between Fresno and San Francisco on August 14, 1888, and the following ensued:

Mrs. Terry.. . grossly insulted Judge Sawyer... pulled his hair with a vicious jerk, and then, in an excited manner.. . said: "I will give him a taste of what he will get by and by. Let him render this decision if he dares." Terry then made a remark about too many witnesses being in the railroad car, adding that the best thing to do with him [Judge Sawyer] would be to take him out into the bay, and drown him".

Continued:  Page One | Two | Three | Four is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justicee