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Review of the United States Marshals Service Discipline Process
Report No. I-2001-011
September 28, 2001


After an allegation of misconduct is brought to the attention of management, USMS policy dictates that it be reported to the Office of Internal Affairs (OIA).1 After receipt, the OIA is required to forward these allegations to the OIG for review. Depending on the severity of the allegation, the OIG makes a determination whether to investigate the allegation or refer it back to the OIA for appropriate action. Appendix 1 summarizes the policies and procedures governing the USMS discipline process.

The USMS discipline process is separated into two distinct phases: investigation and adjudication. The OIA, under the Executive Services Division (ESD), controls the investigation phase of the process. The Employee Relations Team (ERT), under the Human Resources Division (HRD), controls the adjudication phase of the process.

In the investigation phase, if the OIG does not perform the investigation, the OIG refers the allegation back to the OIA for appropriate handling. The OIA reviews the alleged misconduct and closes the case if it determines that no investigation is required. If the OIA determines that an investigation is required, the OIA either conducts the investigation or refers the case back to the district or division where the employee (the subject of the allegation) works for investigation. The OIA has established a performance standard of 100 days to complete an investigation.2 If the allegation is substantiated by the investigation, the OIA forwards the completed investigative case file to the ERT to begin the adjudication phase of the discipline process.

After the ERT receives the investigative case file from the OIA, the ERT reviews the file and distributes the misconduct case for adjudication according to the USMS Discipline Delegation Policy (see Appendix 1). The ERT sends the cases it determines may warrant more than 14 days suspension as a potential discipline action to the USMS Discipline Panel to review and propose discipline actions. The ERT coordinates discipline proposals and decisions exceeding 14 days suspension with the USMS Office of General Counsel (OGC). The ERT sends the cases it determines may warrant less than 14 days suspension as a potential discipline action to the appropriate officials in the district or division where the employee works to propose and decide discipline actions.3

The ERT is required to review and approve all discipline proposals and decisions for consistency and compliance with applicable USMS policies prior to issuance. The ERT is responsible for maintaining the official misconduct case files and related documentation in accordance with federal guidelines, which require copies of all proposal and final decisions, employees responses, and other supporting materials to be maintained. In addition, the ERT enters specific misconduct case file information in its automated database.4 Throughout the adjudication phase, the ERT is available to provide advice and assistance to proposing and deciding officials or subjects of the allegation. (See Appendix 2 for details on the roles and responsibilities of the entities in the discipline process.)

Scope and Methodology

We reviewed the discipline process in the USMS to evaluate whether discipline actions taken in response to substantiated misconduct allegations were consistent, timely, and in accordance with USMS policy. Our review focused on the adjudication phase of the discipline process. We performed our fieldwork for the review from January 2001 through May 2001. We examined DOJ and USMS policies, procedures, and any other internal documents that pertained to the discipline process (see Appendix 1). We reviewed the official misconduct case files and the information in the automated database maintained by the ERT.

We interviewed the following officials and obtained data about the discipline process:

We selected a sample of 50 case files using information in the ERT's automated database.5 These 50 cases were substantiated misconduct allegations that had been forwarded to the ERT for adjudication processing. This case file review focused solely on the adjudication phase of the discipline process. We selected the sample cases based on the following criteria:

Our sample of 50 case files comprised 17 cases out of 214 cases adjudicated in FY 1998, 20 cases out of 214 cases adjudicated in FY 1999, and 13 cases out of 132 cases adjudicated in FY 2000. Our sample represents a broad range of misconduct offense categories. (See Appendix 3.)

We reviewed the misconduct case files to determine whether documentation complied with the minimum standards established in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and whether the documented reasons explained the discipline actions recommended by proposing and deciding officials. We recorded case characteristics, milestones, and time periods. We also reviewed the official personnel folders to determine whether documentation was posted that showed the USMS had enforced the discipline decisions.


  1. Examples of misconduct allegations are the unauthorized use of a government-owned vehicle, improper discharge of a weapon, failure to follow USMS policy, or associating with an individual involved in criminal activities.

  2. In FY 2000, the OIA reported to the USMS Director that its total of 150 misconduct investigations conducted were completed in an average of 42 days.

  3. Not every misconduct case goes through each stage of the formal adjudication phase. For example, a letter of closure can be issued at different stages of case adjudication if a reviewing official determines the allegation to be unsubstantiated. Eleven of the 50 case files in our sample resulted in the issuance of such letters.

  4. The PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System is a commercial-off-the-shelf client/server software system designed to automate and streamline the existing USMS human resources processes. The ERT uses this system to track discipline cases within the USMS. According to ERT staff, PeopleSoft became fully operational around May 1999.

  5. Two of the case files selected involved the same employee who was disciplined on separate occasions for the same offense.