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What does a Court Marshal do?

By L. Burgoon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A court marshal’s duties broadly encompass overseeing the operations and maintenance of the courthouse and its grounds. Specific marshal duties typically include court security operations, making arrests, and maintaining buildings and grounds. In the U.S., a court marshal also manages the jury pool. Most courthouses have a team of a marshals with a supervisor to manage the marshal unit.

A court marshal’s primary job is building security. Marshals are a first line of defense in an emergency situation and are charged with maintaining order inside the courthouse. They patrol courtrooms and other court offices on security detail. They are also in charge of prisoners in the lockup and are responsible for transporting prisoners to and from jail during trials. They also control who has access to court facilities, usually running security checkpoints at the building entrances. A court marshal may also monitor security cameras to ensure safety of courthouse staff and the public.

Security duties also extend to protecting other officers of the court. Court marshals help guard judges, attorneys, and other officials, especially during high-profile cases or times of heightened security. Protection duties may either be a regular responsibility or an added one if specific threats are made against court officers.

In areas where a court marshal has similar authority to that of a sheriff, job duties also involve certain police activities. In these jurisdictions, marshals may arrest suspects, prepare arrest reports, perform body searches, and take fingerprints and mugshots. They also may assist in carrying out search warrants or delivering subpoenas or serving other legal documents.

On the administrative side, a court marshal’s job description often includes management of buildings and grounds. This is a supervisory role that does not involve performing upgrades or repairs. Instead, court marshals help devise budgets to maintain or upgrade court facilities. During rounds, marshals may note maintenance issues, especially those that affect court security, and direct personnel to address the issue.

Jury pool management may be an additional administrative job duty for marshals in the U.S. and perhaps other countries. Court marshals may help maintain the pool of eligible jury members, distribute juror questionnaires, and draw names for jury service. While court is in session, marshals are the primary contact point for jurors, ensuring that jury members are following rules and that their needs are attended to.

Education and experience requirements to become a court marshal vary by jurisdiction. Minimum requirements usually involve a high school degree and several years of experience in security or as a sworn police officer. Some courts further require marshals to graduate from a law enforcement academy. Court marshals must be fit, adept at physically restraining suspects, have good communication skills, work well with others, and have firearms certification. A clean criminal background also is a must.

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