This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
U.S. Marshals Service Resources Faulted by Federal Judiciary
The U.S. Marshals Service’s judicial security program is chronically
understaffed and under-funded, a federal judge told Congress last month.
“The primary statutory duty of the Marshals Service is the protection of the
Judiciary,” said Judge Jane Roth (3rd Cir.), who chairs the Judicial Conference
Committee on Security and Facilities. “Yet, time and time again we have found
that the Service does not have the resources necessary to fulﬁll this
Judge Roth testiﬁed before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism and Homeland Security on H.R. 1751, The Secure Access to Justice and
Court Protection Act of 2005. The bill, introduced by Representative Louie
Gohmert (R-TX) with co-sponsor Representative Anthony D. Weiner (D-NY), would
increase penalties for threats against judges and courtroom personnel and
provide for various security enhancements.
The subcommittee heard testimony from a panel of witnesses including Roth,
Texas State Court Judge Cynthia Kent, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty from the
Eastern District of Virginia, and U.S. Marshal John F. Clark, also from the
Eastern District of Virginia.
In her testimony, Roth cited a 1982 report by the Government Accountability
Ofﬁce that said the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) cannot properly manage its
responsibilities for both the executive and judicial branches.
Roth also noted that the Marshals Service never seems to get the resources it
needs to get the job done.
She testiﬁed that at a recent meeting with the Attorney General, she had
expressed concerns about leadership at the Marshals Service, the vacancies in
several critical positions of great importance to the Judiciary at the Marshals
Service, and the need for detailed information about Marshals Service stafﬁng
levels. She speciﬁcally referred to the USMS Ofﬁce of Protective Intelligence,
which handles threats against the Judiciary, and which is staffed by just three
people. “At one point, these personnel did not even report to the individual
responsible for judicial security at the Marshals Service,” she said. “Threat
assessment cannot be a collateral duty. A focused, coordinated program with
adequately trained personnel needs to be a priority.”
Requests to examine stafﬁng levels have not been honored, according to Roth,
and requests by the Judiciary to participate in the determination of adequate
stafﬁng levels have been denied.
“The Department of Justice refuses to share any information about Marshals
Service stafﬁng levels and formulas or to consider suggestions for change with
us,” said Roth.
“Although we have not been privy to actual stafﬁng allocations by judicial
district, many U.S. Marshals report to us that their stafﬁng levels have been
signiﬁcantly reduced. Some Marshals tell us that the districts are operating up
to 30 percent below the number of Deputy Marshals needed to perform all of the
local Marshal’s responsibilities adequately.”
Roth told the subcommittee that the Judiciary has made three attempts over
the last four years to establish a working group with DOJ to address both on-
and off-site security needs of the judicial branch. The Attorney General now has
established a working group within DOJ to make recommendations on judicial
security by the end of May 2005.
“We greatly appreciate the Attorney General’s efforts,” said Roth, noting,
however, that the Judiciary is not a standing member of the group, nor is the
group speciﬁcally focused on security for judges and their families.
“Based on past history,” said Roth, “I am hopeful, but not conﬁdent, that
this working group will provide useful advice to the Department of Justice and
the Marshals Service. Unfortunately, it is almost two months since the tragic
deaths of Judge Lefkow’s family members, and the Judiciary still does not know
what speciﬁc plans the Marshals Service and the Department have for addressing
Representative William D. Delahunt (D-MA) congratulated Roth on her candid
testimony, and called the lack of consultation by the Marshals Service on
judicial security “unconscionable.”
“. . . I would hope that the gentleman from Texas [Gohmert] would consider an
amendment [to H.R. 1751],” he said, “that would mandate not just consultation,
but a needs assessment for the entire federal Judiciary in a report to Congress,
to this Judiciary Committee, to ensure that a plan is implemented both with
funding and the resources necessary.”
To assist the Judiciary, Roth, on behalf of the Judicial Conference, asked
the subcommittee to:
- support a request by the Judiciary for $12 million in funding that would
provide a comprehensive package of off-site security equipment for all
- support legislation that would require consultation and coordination by both
the Director of the Administrative Ofﬁce of the U.S. Courts and the Director of
the U.S. Marshals Service regarding security requirements for the judicial
- support legislation that would establish greater penalties for the recording
of malicious liens against federal judges—liens ﬁled in an effort to intimidate
or harass a judge who has presided over a criminal or civil case involving the
ﬁler, or otherwise acted against the interests or perceived interests of the
ﬁler, his family, or his acquaintances;
- support ﬁrearms training for judges;
- support a statutory change that would provide emergency authority to conduct
court proceedings outside the territorial jurisdiction of a court, a need that
may arise following a natural disaster or terrorist attack, when court
operations may be more readily and safely conducted in an adjoining district or
- support legislation that would provide permanent authorization to redact
information from ﬁnancial disclosure reports that could endanger the ﬁler and
without which authority certain personal information, not otherwise widely
available, may be publicized.
Judge Jane Roth’s complete hearing testimony can be found at www.uscourts.gov/Press_Releases/hearing.pdf.