U.S. Marshals Can Serve Civil Process and Transport Prisoners More Efficiently

Gao ID: GGD-82-8 April 22, 1982

GAO examined the operations of the U.S. Marshals Service and evaluated its efforts to serve civil process for private litigants and to transport federal prisoners between judicial districts.

Marshals have been required by law to serve civil process when directed by the courts. Civil process is served and fees are charged in accordance with judicial rules and federal statutes, which are causing the process-serving function to be uneconomical and inefficient. Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the service of process and causes marshals to be excessively involved with the performance of this function. It also restricts the use of certified mail, an efficient method of service for summonses and complaints. Although recent changes have been made to Rule 4 to broaden the range of people with blanket authorization to serve civil process and the ability of courts to specifically appoint persons to serve civil process, these changes have not had a significant impact. Rule 4 allows the use of certified mail to serve summonses and complaints to individuals, business concerns, and unincorporated associations. However, most states do not specifically allow the routine use of certified mail to serve civil summonses and complaints. GAO found that certified mail was an effective and efficient method of service and did not hamper court operations. In an effort to reduce the cost of transporting federal prisoners across federal judicial district boundaries, the National Prisoner Transportation System was developed. However, it is not being used to its full potential, which results in unnecessary transportation costs and danger to the public.


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Director: Arnold P. Jones Team: General Accounting Office: General Government Division Phone: (202) 512-7797

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