Norton Urges D.C. Court, U.S. Marshals Service to Ensure Safety of Personnel and Inmates During Coronavirus Pandemic

Mar 22, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to the Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court, Robert Morin, and the U.S. Marshal for the D.C. Superior Court, Anthony Dixon, expressing her concerns about reported practices that could lead to the transmission of the coronavirus at the Superior Court.  Norton said that she was informed last night of troubling practices used by the marshals while handling inmates that could possibly spread the coronavirus to other detainees, marshals, court personnel and the public.
“In these unprecedented times, we need to take every precaution to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” Norton said.  “This includes ensuring to the fullest extent possible that those in custody and making appearances at the D.C. Superior Court do not get or spread the virus.  The U.S. Marshals and the D.C. Superior Court must take the recommended necessary steps to prevent the possible spread of the virus to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of the detainees and other court personnel.”
The Marshals Service provides the same services to the Superior Court that it does to federal courts throughout the country, including enforcing court orders.
Norton’s letter follows:
March 22, 2020
The Honorable Robert E. Morin
Chief Judge
Superior Court of the District of Columbia
H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse
500 Indiana Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
The Honorable Robert Anthony Dixon
U.S. Marshal
Superior Court of the District of Columbia
H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse
500 Indiana Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Chief Judge Morin and Marshal Dixon:
        Yesterday, my office received troubling reports about practices that could put the health of arrestees, court personnel and U.S. marshals at risk, and I urge you take steps to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
        We were informed that while marshals were wearing disposable gloves, they did not change these gloves between handling arrestees.  Additionally, we were informed that arrestees were made to stand very close together, which does not follow the guidelines of having an appropriate distancing between individuals so as to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.  We also understand that the arrestees were not given soap or toilet paper while in the holding cells, nor were the cells or holding blocks being sanitized after use.  We also were informed that handcuffs and shackles were not sanitized after use.  Finally, when the arrestees were made to sign forms, we understand that they shared a pen that likewise was not sanitized between uses.
        I appreciate your looking into these matters to ensure the safety of the court and all those who interact with it, and request that you respond in writing within five days.
Eleanor Holmes Norton