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Forging the Star
The Official Modern History of the United States Marshals Service
By David S. Turk
University of North Texas PressCopyright © 2016 University of North Texas Press
All rights reserved.
The Thirties and Forties: Roots of Disparate Duties
The Emergence of Oversight
Societal changes during the 1930s proved dangerous for deputy marshals. As an example, Deputy U.S. Marshal William Raoul Dorsay, a four-year veteran of the Northern District of California, sought information about a fugitive who had stolen an automobile on November 25, 1937. Accompanied by two policemen, he came to the home of 73-year-old William Pierce in Oakland, California. The man was not a suspect but a former landlord of the fugitive. He was also partially blind and deaf. The lawmen pounded heavily on the front door. Pierce pulled out a double-barrel shotgun because he believed that Deputy Dorsay and the two officers were robbers. As the lawmen prepared to force an entry, Pierce fired the shotgun. The blast struck Dorsey in the neck, cutting his jugular vein. He fell to the walk, bleeding to death. The two others apprehended Pierce, who was tried and later sent to a mental hospital. Deputy Dorsay, the native Kentuckian who wrote poetry in his spare time, was given a hero's funeral with full military honors at age 41.
The organizational structure of the U.S. marshals had remained unchanged since 1789. Each U.S. Marshal controlled his own district, including his preference for badge design. The President of the United States appointed each U.S. Marshal, so each possessed equal authority to lead the district. Congressional representatives viewed the patronage positions as political plums in their home districts, so the vestiges of unilateral, autonomous management perpetuated for generations. Perhaps politics prompted the changes to the structure of the U.S. Marshals starting the 1930s. By then, news coverage of deputies paled in comparison to coverage of the burgeoning Federal Bureau of Investigation. J. Edgar Hoover's keen grasp of the public eye boosted the profile of his agents and their fugitives, while U.S. Marshals received little of the spotlight. Additionally, from its inception the FBI had a centralized internal structure that the U.S. Marshals lacked in the 1930s. After recognizing the need for centralization and observing the efficiencies gained by other agencies with a core command structure, the U.S. Marshals eventually followed suit and established a central office, which would eventually become its headquarters in 1956.
Until the establishment of headquarters, only occasional conferences brought together the appointed U.S. marshals or career deputy U.S. marshals from different districts and representatives from the Department of Justice. Continuously since 1861, each U.S. marshal turned to the Office of the Attorney General for both guidance and accountability. The Attorney General represented a distant boss to most deputies in the field, and was rarely involved in any district issue. In 1935, New Jersey native Salvatore A. Andretta joined the Justice Department. He was the first person charged with centralization of the U.S. marshals, and to improve their financial accountability. Justice officials tasked Andretta with managing and reconciling all expense accounts for the myriad U.S. marshals offices. The uneven flow of money between Justice and the district offices became a regular concern to the Department of Justice. With the Great Depression impacting the nation, federal budgets and expenses desperately needed oversight. The use of automobiles, investigative expenses, and rising living costs made fiscal discipline a critical issue. With only a secretary to assist him, Andretta became the central point person to authorize travel expenses for the large number of district offices. Furthermore, in 1939, Attorney General Frank Murphy announced his intention to call a conference to discuss "improvements." It was actually a way for Murphy to "raise the bar" and remind all personnel of their specific duties.
Still, the general notion of federal marshals being merely an extension of the courtroom stemmed from a decision in 1937 to replace bailiffs in the federal court with deputy U.S. marshals. Traditionally, bailiffs had been hired by the U.S. Marshals as a guard-type position. In fact, the old bailiff system was being phased out, but legislation from the 1930s and early 1940s inadvertently reinforced a stereotype that deputy U.S. marshals served as bailiffs. Largely based on the Appropriations Act of 1937, the hard-scrabble image of the Old West deputy marshal riding on his horse in the search for his quarry suffered as a result. The fact that federal bailiffs served long careers in a single court provoked the stereotype of aged deputy marshals well into the 1950s.
While the image of the U.S. Marshals continued to develop with society's changes, the common strands of their core duties provided continuity. Patterned after the court system, U.S. Marshals' authority was spread over the many districts throughout the country. This began changing after World War II, with a trend towards greater workforce professionalization and more oversight of district activity. Eventually, these early efforts at centralized organization led to "headquarters."
One primary function of the deputy marshals that stood the test of time was "hooking and hauling." It is a term of workplace lexicon, which means shackling and transporting prisoners to and from court. Deputies have brought federal defendants and prisoners from cells to the court as a principal duty. For example, in 1931, U.S. Marshal Henry C.W. Laubenheimer brought Al Capone to court, under arrest for tax evasion. Photographers snapped numerous images as Capone — accompanied by the deputy marshal — entered the courthouse. In fact, the "perp walk" became a publicity, and sometimes political, duty for federal marshals when bringing a high-profile defendant to face justice. It was their way to let the world know "the feds got their man." The practice has since fallen out of favor.
Since the 1860s, deputies served in Constantinople (later Istanbul), Seoul, and other key courts around the world. By treaty, these courts handled the legal and criminal matters of American citizens in specific countries. By 1900, because of the competing national interests among a number of western countries, the U.S. likewise kept a strategic economic presence in China. Starting in June 1906, the U.S. Marshals maintained a constant presence in China through the Consular Court system. By Executive Order 6166, dated June 10, 1933, administrative supervision of the U.S. Court for China moved from the State to the Justice Department. The following year saw the arrival of U.S. Marshal Edward L. Faupel in Shanghai. Only 36 years old, Faupel learned much of war simply by being in the post. The Sino-Japanese War almost led to the evacuation of personnel. By September 1937, U.S. Marshal Edward Faupel toyed with the idea of fleeing as he watched bombs drop on nearby Chinese military encampments. He wrote Salvatore Andretta, who maintained fiscal oversight of the U.S. marshals at Justice:
At present there are only three of us remaining to carry on the work of the Court, Judge Helmick, Deputy Marshal Peterson and myself, with occasional gratis help from outside in matters concerning the District Attorney and Clerks offices. I find my position, both officially and otherwise, most interesting, and I might say entertaining, preferring not to leave this area until, and if, general evacuation becomes imperative.
From the top of my apartment am able to observe frequent bombings of the Chinese positions which are so close to the settlement boundry [sic] one may observe the bombs leave the planes, follow them to the ground and see the broken bodies fly into the air when satisfactory hits are made.
As acting Coroner, during this emergency, was at the scene of the bombings at the Cathay and Palace Hotels, Avenue Edward VII and Sinceres Department Store a few moments after the actual bombings occurred. ...
Faupel would later depart Shanghai, leaving a vacancy at the Consular Court in June 1938. Californian Gordon Campbell, a young man who had recently returned from the Pacific theatre, was offered the job by his Congressman despite little experience in police work. Given that Campbell needed a regular salary, he accepted.
U.S. Marshal Campbell's office was in a busy section of Shanghai. There was regular contact with other foreign offices in the city. He had few deputies, four at one point. One was stationed in the city of Tientsin, while the remainder stayed closer to Shanghai. No one actually explained his job to him, Campbell recalled years later. The former Attorney General of New Mexico, Milton Helmick, was the judge at the Consular Court. Like other U.S. marshals, Campbell carried civil and criminal process papers. In a rare case, he located a fugitive American attorney who had attempted escape on a cruise ship.
He took off and went aboard an ocean liner and received his cabin for the trip, and was taking off for some foreign spot, I know not which. I had to go and commandeer the ship and hold it up until we got hold of him, which took place. We got him and brought him back to shore, and the ship went off and he was left to work out his troubles.
While Marshal Campbell was greatly assisted by the Chinese citizens, the issue of jurisdiction arose. Shanghai was divided into international sections known as "concessions." On occasion, jurisdiction became murky. In one case, Deputy U.S. Marshal Arthur Peterson, a retired petty officer, called Campbell early one morning and stated that a murder had been committed at a bar on the border of American, British, and French jurisdictions — "on the corner of Blood Alley and Avenue Edward VII."
I went on down to investigate, because the owner of the bar was a chief petty officer of our navy who was living out there also. His name was Smell Bad Shelton. He [a patron] was dead, all right, from a meat cleaver. But he got his name from the fact that the night soil of the city was dumped in the river just across the street from his bar... On top of that, this was the time of Franklin Roosevelt in this country. He was carrying out his New Deal and getting lots of publicity. The New Deal Bar, that was its name. In a quick investigation, I found that Smell Bad was not connected with the murder and released him. That was the end of the case... When I found that Smell Bad didn't have any connection, I turned it over to the French gendarmes, and they took it from there.
Other than the occasional excitement, his duties proved routine. Interaction with occupying Japanese forces was limited, even though they surrounded Shanghai and posted soldiers at the city limits. The judge held court sessions routinely, a clerk worked administrative tasks, and monies were handled by the U.S. Marshal's office. Appeals passed to the 9 Circuit Court in San Francisco.
U.S. Marshal Campbell served until 1940. Once Japanese pressure increased in the region, the judge removed with the court to the city of Chungking, where it remained for the duration of World War II. He returned to the United States, serving alongside Secretary of Defense James Forrestal in Washington. Later, Campbell became a judge.
In 1941, the Department of Justice eliminated one of the prerogatives of the presidentially appointed U.S. marshals. The Department took away each marshal's discretion to hire deputies as a way of achieving some centralized, fiscal restraint. However, this decision handicapped the appointed marshals' ability to carry out duties in the district offices, and appeared to them as a reversal of fortunes. Although later reversed, the move turned out to be one of the first seeds of centralization.
Ties to the Department of Justice increased that same year with the issuance of a nationwide badge and credential to replace the slew of badges issued at the district level, creating some order and uniformity. Prior to this, official badges were a mixture of bronze, silver, enamel, copper, and even gold emblems, and came in a variety of shapes — most commonly a circle cut-out star or shield. The identification on the existing badges differed, with some designating the district or territory and others simply naming the wearer as a federal officer. The new, nationally issued badges were numbered and recorded for accountability. The first nationwide U.S. marshal's badge was shield-shaped, with an eagle on top. On the face in large type was the title "U.S. Marshal" or "Deputy U.S. Marshal" with the words "Dept. of Justice" included.
Highlighting the impact of the centralization efforts was a memo from U.S. Marshal James E. Mulcahy of the Southern District of New York to T.D. Quinn, Administrative Assistant to the Attorney General, dated October 23, 1941. U.S. Marshal Mulcahy, after just six months on the job, made an official plea to block issuance of national badges to chief deputies. He stated "there are approximately 1,050 deputy marshals, including 94 chief deputies" and cited the increased costs of extra die casts. Quinn received the recommendations on November 1, but rejected outright the Marshal's point on chief deputy badges. As a side note, he also turned down Mulcahy's suggestion that confiscated vehicles be used by the districts instead of personal vehicles which required a reimbursement process.
Even with a distinct badge to highlight semi-autonomy, finances were not independent. Andretta, Quinn, and the Chief of Division Accounts Eugene J. Matchett held a firm fiscal line on the Marshals. When irregularities were discovered in individual accounts, Matchett informed Andretta. In turn, Andretta issued a memorandum providing corrective instructions to a specific U.S. marshal. The irregularities were not always fiscal in nature. Andretta wrote Marshal Mulcahy in March 1946 that one of his deputies appeared to show preferred treatment of certain inmates — for example, by allowing certain prisoners to ride with him in the front seat of his van. Andretta requested the Marshal demand the resignations of the offending deputies, citing the civil service rules should they refuse.
During World War II, while other agencies focused elsewhere, the U.S. marshals became internal guardians. Deputies transferred detainees to federal internment camps, regulated the internal movement of alien nationals, and caught "draft dodgers." In Utah, one deputy faced down a set of brothers who used religion as their defense for not reporting for duty. In this case, he simply gave them a choice: join your camp or go to jail. Chief Deputy Helen Crawford of the Eastern District of Texas was given the dangerous job of bringing in the commander and crew of a captured German U-Boat in the waters outside Beaumont, Texas. Although the U-Boat was disabled and helpless, the commander refused to surrender to a woman — even a gun-wielding one. Chief Crawford, with several deputies, leveled her gun and made it clear he had no choice.
However, even busy with wartime tasks, "hooking and hauling" still dominated the work of the deputy U.S. marshals. A deputy typically tracked his activities and expenses in a logbook with gold-stamped lettering on the binding, often referred to as a "standard diary," in which year-by-year entries were made. One such diary, from the Northern District of New York, noted a typical day in the life of a deputy in January 1944.
Jan 25 — Arrested John E. Towse at the Conn Office and Brought [sic] him to Marsh Office and Took Finger Prints and Took to Madison Co Jail Ed. Breen as gard [sic] Contract Taxi co 55 yrs Old Lives [sic] at 300 Slocum 675 Syracuse
All tasks were meticulously recorded. Any reimbursement of expense needed names and dates for verification. Interestingly, one diary has a slip pasted on the back — as a reminder of the process. It reads:
I hearby [sic] Certify and return I received Within Warrant at Syracuse NY, on [ ] 1944 and herewith return it unexecuted as requested By the F.B.I. Agent [ ] Who States the Within Named Defendant is not believed to Be Within the Northern Dist of New York.
Excerpted from Forging the Star by David S. Turk. Copyright © 2016 University of North Texas Press. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
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