U.S. Marshals come to court here in Aberdeen next Monday to explain to Judge Charles Kornmann where they get off not following his orders and indicating whether they’re vaccinated for coronavirus. Meanwhile, my post on that contempt case and one of the exhibits cited therein is helping the Federal Managers Association make its case to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for more funding for the Marshals.
FMA represents over 200,000 managers, supervisors, and executives in federal government, including members of the Marshals Service. In written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on June 3, FMA warns that severe staffing shortages threaten the Marshals Service’s ability to “safely and consistently carry out its primary mission of court security without risk of injury or worse to participants in the judicial process.”
To support this claim, FMA cites the May 10, 2021, letter that U.S. Marshals Service Chief of Staff John Kilgallon sent to Judge Roberto Lange to push back against the court’s requirement that Marshals and everyone else entering federal courtrooms in South Dakota indicate whether they have received the coronavirus vaccine. In that letter, Kilgallon contends that the court can’t afford to impose any more restrictions on Marshalls because they’re short more than 30% of their full staff:
The USMS takes seriously its court security responsibilities and place the highest priority on maintaining the safety and security of those involved in the judicial process. It should be noted, however, the Marshals Service is currently at a critical staffing level of 69% across the agency. The District of South Dakota’s DUSM staffing level is even lower at only 65%. This severe staffing shortage contributes to the limited number of trials and hearings which can be supported simultaneously, as well as the staffing for any pre- or post-trial appearances requiring the provision of court security by DUSM personnel. Any widespread court orders or other restrictions which would impose additional limitations on the number of DUSMs available to provide court security and other vital responsibilities further degrades our nationwide ability to support the judiciary and may negatively impact the ability of courts to conduct their business when such security is required [USMS Chief of Staff John Kilgallon, letter to Judge Roberto A. Lange, 2021.05.10].
FMA contends that staffing shortages in the Marshals Service have been made worse by exponential growth in USMS headquarters staffing, such as assigning a couple dozen Marshals to protect Education Secretary Betsy DeVos while she was in office, that has reduced resources available to the 94 district offices and their regular Marshal duties. FMA says it supports five of six recommendations made last August by the Judiciary Conference for increased security in the federal courts, but, remarkably, FMA urges Senate Appropriations to hold off on the sixth recommendation, for funding an additional 1,000 Marshal positions, and instead review “where immediate steps can instead be taken to reassign existing USMS operational employees from bloated headquarter divisions and staff offices back to critically understaffed districts.” FMA suggests that an organizational shake-up and a change in management could have averted the South Dakota Marshals’ confrontation with the Judiciary:
We hope the new USMS Director will avoid being bamboozled by bureaucrats at USMS headquarters into believing Congressional mandates require continued growth of headquarter divisions and staff offices. Instead, we renew our recommendation by urging him to shake-up the organizational structure by issuing an immediate moratorium on hiring all but critical vacancies exclusively in district offices and immediately reassign staff in cities around the country to local district chains of command, using the tested and successful model found at other DOJ components.
The Director-nominee awaits Senate confirmation. With his swift confirmation there is opportunity to get back to the basics by holding USMS accountable to its judicial security mission. Doing so could avoid the confrontation recently created in South Dakota between district managers—under of the auspice of “headquarters said so”—and the very judiciary the Agency is sworn to protect. It raises questions whether additional research by USMS may have advanced better communication with the Judiciary [Federal Managers Association, written testimony, U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, 2021.06.03].
Note that this is labor asking not for more money but for leaner, smarter government.
Luckily for FMA, neither John Thune nor Mike Rounds serve on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee or on Appropriations, so citing South Dakota’s most useful and informative political blog on page 1 of their testimony won’t automatically hurt their argument.