Departments of the Court
Florida Supreme Court
500 South Duval Street
THE MARSHAL'S OFFICE
The Supreme Court Marshal, Silvester Dawson, is the custodian of the building and grounds of the Supreme Court. This responsibility includes security, custodianship of all property, building and grounds maintenance and administration of the building facilities. Responsibilities include development and execution of the court operational budget, purchasing, maintenance contracting, and the provision of telephone communication services. The Marshal is also responsible for insuring the execution of all the Courts orders throughout the state. The office phone number is 850-488-8845.
Marshal Dawson has an extensive background in law enforcement and the military. Most recently, he worked as a lieutenant colonel in the Florida Highway Patrol, where he also was deputy director and chief of staff. He served in FHP offices around the state, and previously was a Sergeant in the United States Army. He became the Supreme Court Marshal on June 1, 2011, and is the eighth person to hold that office.
History of the Marshal
Marshals and their Deputies have served as the instruments of civil authority by courts for over 1200 years. The Frankish descendant of the Germanic word, *marahskalk, came to designate a high royal official and also a high military commander. Along with many other Frankish words, *marahskalk was borrowed into Old French by about 800; some centuries later, when the Normans established a French-speaking official class in England, the Old French word came with them.
In English, marshal is first recorded in 1218, as a surname (still surviving in the spelling Marshall); its first appearance as a common noun was in 1258, in the sense “high officer of the royal court.” The word was also applied to this high royal official's deputies, who were officers of courts of law, and it continued to designate various officials involved with courts of law and law enforcement, including the horseback-riding marshals we are familiar with in the old West of the United States. Particularly in the United States, marshal is used for various kinds of law enforcement officers with specialist status. They mainly protect the security of the courts and justice system.
In the United States the first thirteen Marshals were appointed by George Washington in 1789. The Marshals and their Deputies served the subpoenas, summonses, writs, warrants, and other process issued by the courts, made all the arrests, and handled all the prisoners. They also disbursed the money. The Marshals paid the fees and expenses of the court clerks, U.S. Attorneys, jurors, and witnesses. They rented the courtrooms and jail space and hired the bailiffs, criers, and janitors. They made sure the prisoners were present, the jurors were available, and the witnesses were on time.
In 1927 the legislature of Florida granted the Supreme Court of Florida the authority to appoint a Marshal under Article V of the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Marshal has the power to execute the process of the court throughout the state, and in any county may deputize the sheriff or a deputy sheriff for such purpose.
The Modern Office of the Marshal - Changing with the Times
Just as America has changed over the past two centuries, so, too, the Office of the Marshal has changed dramatically. Not in its underlying responsibility to enforce the law and execute the orders issued by the court, but in the breadth of its functions, the professionalism of its personnel, and the sophistication of the technologies employed. These changes are made apparent by an examination of the contemporary duties of the modern Office of the Marshal.
Judicial Protective Operations
Ensuring the safe conduct of judicial proceedings and protecting the Justices and other members of the judicial family are principal functions of the Office of the Marshal. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of threats against members of the judiciary, attorneys and other court officers. Explicit threats against the judiciary are assessed by the Office of the Marshal to determine the level of danger. On average, about 100 threats/inappropriate communications against judicial members are logged each year. Building on operational study of U.S. assassins, attackers, and near-lethal approaches of public officials, the Office of the Marshal develops a threat assessment and determines an appropriate protective operation in response to each threat.
The Office of the Marshal provides the latest in state-of-the-art protective techniques and equipment in all phases of court proceedings, threat situations and judicial conferences - thus ensuring quick and safe responses in emergency situations as well as unobtrusive surveillance and protection during routine operations. In fulfilling its primary responsibility of providing security services to the Supreme Court the Office of the Marshal deploys and coordinates the installation of complex electronic security systems to protect the Justices, courthouse staff members, visitors and physical court facilities. This includes perimeter security, access control, closed circuit television surveillance and alarm reporting systems.
Central Courthouse Management
The Marshal is the custodian of the building and grounds of the Supreme Court including custodianship of all property, building and grounds maintenance and administration of the building facilities. Through its administrative staff The Office of the Marshal prepares and manages the budget and inventory of the Supreme Court.
The Facilities and Engineering Division performs building and grounds maintenance, construction management of capital improvement projects, and mail center management. Built in 1948 the current Supreme Court Building is one of the most historically significant buildings in the state capital, with architecture inspired by Thomas Jefferson. The Facilities and Engineering staff provide a program of modern upgrades to systems while preserving the historic majesty and dignity of the building.
There have been a wide range of designs of badges that were worn by Marshals and their deputies in the past 80 years. The following are a sample of the different styles that have been used.