Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service

PETITIONER: Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction
RESPONDENT: United States Marshals Service
LOCATION: Heath Residence

DOCKET NO.: 84-489
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 474 US 34 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1985
DECIDED: Nov 18, 1985

Leroy S. Zimmerman - on behalf of the Petitioner
Mark Irving Levy - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1985 in Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction against the United States Marshals Service.

Mr. Zimmerman, you may proceed whenever you are ready Mr. Attorney General.

Leroy S. Zimmerman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The question presented by this appeal is whether a district court has the authority to direct the United States Marshals Service to share responsibility with state officials for the production of state inmates to appear in Federal District Court at a trial of a civil action.

This question arose in the course of a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner against Philadelphia County officials for events allegedly occurring while he was in the custody of county prison officials.

The magistrate ordered the state custodians to produce the plaintiff and two witnesses.

Plaintiff was incarcerated 220 miles from the federal courthouse.

One witness 218 miles away and another witness 143 miles away.

Recognizing the burden that is placed on the state custodians, the magistrate ordered that state custodians transport the inmates to the Philadelphia House of Detention, there to transfer custody to the United States Marshals, who would transport the prisoners from the House of Detention to the Federal Courthouse and maintain custody of them while they were inside the courthouse.

Well, the magistrate's order transferring custody from state to federal officers and the apportion of transportation responsibilities were based in part on his knowledge that the U.S. Marshal regularly transported federal prisoners between the Philadelphia House of Detention and the Federal Courthouse.

This arrangement permitted state custodians to avoid the deployment of guards from their primary responsibility, that of maintaining prison security, to transferring prisoners.

The U.S. Marshals Service intervened to oppose the orders, arguing that no authority exists to support such orders.

In rejecting the Marshals' contentions, the magistrate recognized that the explosion of federal civil rights litigation by state prisoners has strained available resources.

Consequently, in fashioning a procedure, the magistrate stressed that his order placed considerable burden on state officials, but the Marshal really would have very little burden, if any at all.

The Court of Appeals in a split decision did not dispute the magistrate's factual and pragmatic conclusions, rather, Judge Gibbons, writing for the Court, concluded that no statutory authority, including the All Writs Act, supported the magistrate's order, apportioning the transportation responsibility between state officials and the United States Marshals.

The Court held that the Marshal is obligated to maintain custody over the prisoners while they are in the courthouse.

In fact, the Court of Appeals held that if security concerns justify it, the Marshal could be ordered to take custody of state prisoners outside the courthouse.

Now, it is our position--

William H. Rehnquist:

General Zimmerman, as I understand it, the state does not contest that part of the magistrate's order which required transportation from a correctional facility to Philadelphia.

Leroy S. Zimmerman:

--That is correct, Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

And, the government doesn't challenge that part of the Court of Appeals' decision which required the furnishing of security within the Federal Courthouse?

Leroy S. Zimmerman:

That is correct, Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

So, what we are talking about is transportation from the State Correctional Center in Philadelphia to the Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia.

Leroy S. Zimmerman:


It is our position that the All Writs Act--

Thurgood Marshall:

Do you have a Federal House of Detention in Philadelphia?

Leroy S. Zimmerman:

--I beg your pardon?

Thurgood Marshall:

Do you have a Federal House of... Do you have any place where federal prisoners are kept in Philadelphia?

Leroy S. Zimmerman:


The House of Detention in Philadelphia, operated by the County of Philadelphia, is a designated repository by the Federal Marshals to house federal prisoners.