The office of United States Marshal was created by the First Congress. President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act into law on September 24, 1789. The Act provided that a United States Marshal's primary function was to execute all lawful warrants issued to him under the authority of the United States. The law defined marshals as officers of the courts charged with assisting federal courts in their law-enforcement functions:
Many of the first U.S. Marshals had already proven themselves in military service during the American Revolutionary War. Among the first marshals were John Adams's son-in-law Congressman William Stephens Smith for the District of New York, another New York district marshal, Congressman Thomas Morris, and Henry Dearborn for the District of Maine.
From the nation's earliest days, 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 with 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. Federal marshals were by far the most important government officials in territorial jurisdictions. Local law enforcement officials were often called \"marshals\" so there is often an ambiguity whether someone was a federal or a local official.
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.
During the settlement of the American frontier, marshals served as the main source of day-to-day law enforcement in areas that had no local government of their own. U.S. Marshals were instrumental in keeping law and order in the \"Old West\" era. They were involved in apprehending desperadoes such as Bill Doolin, Ned Christie, and in 1893, the infamous Dalton Gang after a shoot-out that left Deputy Marshals Ham Hueston, Lafe Shadley, and posse member Dick Speed, dead. Individual deputy marshals have been seen as legendary heroes in the face of rampant lawlessness (see Notable marshals below) with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Dallas Stoudenmire, and Bass Reeves as examples of well-known marshals. Bill Tilghman, Heck Thomas, and Chris Madsen formed a legendary law enforcement trio known as \"Three Guardsmen\" when they worked together policing the vast, lawless Oklahoma and Indian Territories.
In the 1960s the marshals were on the front lines of the civil rights movement, mainly providing protection to volunteers. In September 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered 127 marshals to accompany James Meredith, an African American who wished to register at the segregated University of Mississippi. Their presence on campus provoked riots at the university, but the marshals stood their ground, and Meredith registered. Marshals provided continuous protection to Meredith during his first year at Ole Miss, and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy later proudly displayed a deputy marshal's dented helmet in his office. U.S. Marshals also protected black school children integrating public schools in the South. Artist Norman Rockwell's famous painting The Problem We All Live With depicted a tiny Ruby Bridges being escorted by four towering United States Marshals in 1964.
Until 1965, each U.S. district court hired and administered its own marshals independently from all others. In 1965, the Executive Office for U.S. Marshals, was created as \"the first organization to supervise U.S. Marshals nationwide\". The United States Marshals Service, a federal agency, was created in 1969.
During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 200 deputy marshals of the tactical unit Special Operations Group were dispatched to assist local and state authorities in restoring peace and order throughout Los Angeles County, California.
The Marshals Service is responsible for apprehending wanted fugitives, providing protection for the federal judiciary, transporting federal prisoners, 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.
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.
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. The SOG also maintains a small, full-time operational cadre stationed at the Marshals Service Tactical Operations Center at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, where all deputies undergo extensive, specialized training in tactics and weaponry.
The primary handgun for marshals are Glock pistols in .40 S&W caliber (models 22, 23 or 27). Deputy Marshals may also carry a backup gun, but it must meet certain requirements. Deputy Marshals are also equipped with body armor and collapsible batons for daily use, and ballistic shields, helmets, and protective goggles for serving high risk warrants.
The U.S. court system is divided into 94 federal judicial districts, each with a district court (except the territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which share a U.S. Marshal). For each district there is a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed United States marshal, a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (GS-14 or 15) (and an Assistant Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal in certain larger districts), Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshals (GS-13), and as many deputy U.S. Marshals (GS-7 and above) and special deputy U.S. Marshals as needed. In the United States federal budget for 2005, funds for 3,067 deputy marshals and criminal investigators were provided. The U.S. Marshal for each United States courts of appeals (the 13 circuit courts) is the U.S. Marshal in whose district that court is physically located.
More than 200 U.S. Marshals, deputy marshals, and special deputy marshals have been killed 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. federal law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty. The dead are remembered on an Honor Roll permanently displayed at Headquarters.
The Department of Justice under Janet Reno acknowledged wrongdoing in U.S. marshals decisions surrounding a firefight at Ruby Ridge in 1992, where a deputy U.S. marshal shot 14-year-old Samuel Weaver in the back. Afterwards, deputy U.S. marshals became involved in a gunfight with Weaver's father, who was wanted on a federal warrant for failure to appear, and another person. Deputy United States marshals dispute this claim. Deputy U.S. marshal Billy Deegan was killed during a surveillance operation after identifying himself as a federal agent. This led to an extended gunfight in which both sides fired several rounds. Samuel Weaver was shot and killed. His body was taken to a small building for more than a week and an autopsy was unable to determine entry and exit wounds (see Idaho Federal Court Transcripts for clarification of this incident). Newsweek described the incident as \"one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American law enforcement\".
Months later, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard and his team corner the Conroy Brothers and their families at their house and celebrate afterwards especially after seeing it on the news. In the meantime, tow truck driver Mark Warren is arrested for an illegal weapons possession charge following a vehicular collision in Chicago, after a brief hospitalization. Through a fingerprint check, the police determine that he is actually federal fugitive Mark Roberts, wanted for a homicide. That night, Roberts boards a prisoner transport aircraft back to New York via Memphis, sharing the flight with Gerard, who is escorting prisoners unrelated to Roberts' case. Roberts thwarts an assassination attempt by a prisoner with an improvised firearm, but the bullet blows a window that depressurizes the cabin, killing the prisoner and another marshal. The pilots attempt an emergency landing but the damaged plane crashes into the Ohio River in southern Illinois. With the plane sinking, Gerard assists in rescuing fellow marshals and officers while they retrieve the surviving prisoners, but discovers Roberts has escaped. Eight hours later, DSS Special Agent John Royce is assigned to join Gerard's team and other officers to hunt Roberts, much to Gerard's reluctance to his potential in assistance.
During the early censuses, U.S. Marshalls received little training or instruction on how to collect census data. In fact, it was not until 1830 that marshals even received printed shedules on which to record households' responses. The marshals often received limited instruction from the census acts passed prior to each census.
Beginning with the 1880 census, specially hired and trained census-takers replaced the U.S. marshals. Door-t