Mimesis Law
26 May 2022

94 Sheriffs And Trump

January 18, 2017 (Fault Lines) — The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the original 13 federal judicial districts and called for appointment of a Marshal for each district. The Senate confirmed President Washington’s nomination of the first Marshals on September 26, 1789.

For the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Marshals Service, a larger-than-life bronze sculpture, titled “Frontier Marshal” was donated to the Marshals Service. The 10-foot tall work of art was created by Dave Manuel of Joseph, Oregon, a widely acclaimed painter and sculptor of western themes.

There are now 94 U.S. Marshals who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. 28 U.S.C. § 561(c).* Each U.S. Marshal is an Executive Branch official in the Justice Department.

I bet you didn’t know that each U.S. Marshal has a unique power. That is, the Marshal “may exercise the same powers which a sheriff of the State may exercise in executing the laws thereof.” 28 U.S.C. § 564. How cool is that?

But exercising the power of a county sheriff is not the only thing a U.S. Marshal does. The U.S. Marshal (and his or her deputies**) are responsible for:

  • protecting members of the judicial family*** (judges, attorneys, witnesses, and jurors);
  • providing physical security in courthouses;
  • safeguarding endangered government witnesses and their families;
  • transporting and producing prisoners for court proceedings;
  • executing court orders and arrest warrants;
  • apprehending fugitives; and,
  • seizing assets gained by illegal means and providing for the custody, management and disposal of forfeited assets.

United States Marshals Service, FY 2017 Performance Budget, President’s Budget, at p. 5 (February, 2016).

Unfortunately, nominations for U.S. Marshal have frequently been seen as a matter of patronage rather than professionalism. We have been lucky in Nebraska except for a couple of glaring exceptions which I will not mention.

At the present time, Mark Martinez, is our exemplary Marshal. On January 13, 2010, Mark Martinez was sworn in as the U.S. Marshal for the District of Nebraska. Before becoming our U.S. Marshal, Mark served in the Omaha Police Department from 1984 until his retirement in March 2009, first as a police officer, and later as Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and Deputy Chief. He is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He received a B.S. and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1982 and 1993, respectively. He is a wonderfully professional, kind and utterly decent human being and demands that his deputies display the same attributes. And, as we all know, professionalism, kindness and decency flow from the top down.

I deal with the U.S. Marshals on a daily basis. I see how they treat prisoners. Indeed, I have in mind the very recent efforts of a supervisory DUSM working hard to address the health care needs of a dying offender who had been granted compassionate release by the Bureau of Prisons. I have twice been the beneficiary of protective measures taken by the USMS. I have also recently requested and received the services of the USMS to make sure that a defendant and his counsel remained safe after a particularly emotional sentencing.

I understand deeply the dangerous activities these men and women undertake in both their routine duties and as members of various task forces. Indeed, I well remember (I was a law clerk then) when U.S. Marshal Lloyd Grimm from the District of Nebraska was shot in the chest by a sniper at long range during the uprising at Wounded Knee. He ended up paralyzed from the waist down. See Martin Waldron, U.S. Marshal Shot at Wounded Knee, New York Times (March 27, 1973).

I hope our new President realizes the importance of his nominations for U.S. Marshal of the various districts. I implore him to appoint men and women who are experienced in law enforcement. In fact, I suggest that he consider those who have risen through the ranks of the United States Marshals Service. The job of United States Marshal is too important to treat as a political plum.

In short, I second a remark made by United States District Judge William G. Young of Boston in 2007. When speaking of United States Marshals, the good judge pointedly said that “direct command of law enforcement officers in harm’s way [should] never be entrusted to political patronage appointees.”

Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)

*This year, if everything goes according to the confirmation plan, a guy with big ears (Attorney General Sessions) will be able to make a temporary appointment if the position of U.S. Marshal becomes vacant. 28 U.S.C. § 562(a).

**There are about 4,192 Deputy U.S. Marshals (DUSMs).

***The phrase “judicial family” is goofy. Would anyone refer to the Congress as a “family?” On second thought, the idea of Chuck Schumer having a sleep over at the home of Mitch McConnell is intriguing.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • MOK
    19 January 2017 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Your comments are well-stated, informative, and welcome. The Marshals’ service personnel have a difficult, important, and too often, thankless job. I’m betting that most common citizens’ knowledge of the Marshal service is gained during security checks at the front door of our Federal Courthouses, where the Marshals raise the hackles of those of us with libertarian stripes who detest being treated like common criminal suspects or worse to enter the peoples’ courthouse. Yes, yes, it is all in the name of security, but it must be a hell of a job for otherwise “nice” guys and gals to perform. I heartily thank them for their faithful and effective service, but must confess I do not look forward to their smiling faces barring the courthouse doors. But hey, I’m still complaining that I’m required to have an e-mail to practice my profession and I can’t walk into the courthouse with a Complaint or other document and file it in person with a smile from the Clerk. 🙂 All this electronic stuff is quite efficient, however. (Still screaming and being drug by the feet into the 21st Century.)

    • Richard G. Kopf
      19 January 2017 at 12:33 pm - Reply


      I hate it that we have to screen people entering federal buildings that have our courtrooms in them. At least in Lincoln (and I think Omaha), the Court Security Officers are pleasant and decent to people who are patient with young, old, and dumb whether they be lawyers or lay people. I know that is not true in other federal courthouses, and that is a stain on the US Marshal in that district.

      The foregoing said screening is necessary. Consider the following:

      The 2010 Las Vegas courthouse shooting was an attack on January 4, 2010, in which a gunman opened fire in the lobby of the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada. Around 8 a.m., the gunman pulled a Mossberg 500 shotgun from underneath his black coat and started firing indiscriminately from outside the security areas where visitors pass through metal detectors and x-ray machines.

      Two people were killed in the attack, including the gunman, who was identified by authorities as Johnny Lee Wicks, a 66-year-old man disgruntled over cuts to his Social Security benefits. Stanley W. Cooper, a 72-year-old court security officer, was also killed after a shotgun blast struck him in the chest. A 48-year-old deputy U.S. Marshal named Richard Gardner was shot in the upper arm, chest, and head, with a total of eight pieces of buckshot entering his body, and hospitalized at the University Medical Center, but survived.

      All the best.


      • MOK
        19 January 2017 at 3:26 pm - Reply

        Sadly, such events as you describe are proof of why the security is needed. However, as we have seen in recent airport attacks, it appears security is now needed outside the premises. One wonders where it will end. The crazy part of me sees a metal detector or scanner and the smiling face of a security guard outside my front door as I leave home with my suitcase or briefcase. Sigh . . . . .

        A local state district judge (Iowa), noting the installation of security cameras at the entrances to the court area of a courthouse a few years ago (without any other security devices, except for locked doors to the hallway leading to the court’s chambers), said, “Well, at least now they will have a video of the shooter after he plugs us.” Subsequent efforts have put full-scale security in effect with jovial county sheriff personnel running the show. The observant Judge is now retired.