Comments on H.R. 7039

Gao ID: 119450 September 9, 1982

GAO testified on a bill which would amend existing laws governing the protection of Government witnesses, the performance of U.S. Marshal duties, and the fees that can be charged for certain services provided by the Government in connection with litigation in the Federal courts. In addition, the bill would amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure relating to the service of process and provide more comprehensive direction for conducting the Witness Security Program. GAO stated that: (1) the subcommittee should obtain more information from the Department of Justice and law enforcement bodies concerning the potential resource requirements that could result from the proposed admission of witnesses into the program who are not involved in testifying against organized criminal activity; and (2) the subcommittee should also better define the nature of an agreement contemplated by the bill which would be enforceable by both the witnesses and Justice, whether the agreements would be contracts, and what types of relief would be available to a witness in case of a breach of the agreement. Some clarification is also needed of the term "termination" as used in the bill, and GAO believes that a changein the manner of appointment of U.S. Marshals would be beneficial. However, without a corresponding adjustment to meet the needs of the judiciary, this could interfere with the Marshals' performance of duties. Congress should delineate specific criteria which must be met by a litigant before a Marshal serves the litigant's process or provide that each district court specify the conditions under which a litigant could request that a Marshal serve process. GAO supports the section of the bill which would allow the Attorney General to set fees for processing services performed by Marshals for private litigants. GAO believes that some meaningful mechanism should be in place to enhance the viability of certified mail as a method of process.

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