Can the Supreme Court of the US issue bench warrents?

That is, could the court bypass the executive branch’s control of the federal law enforcement apparatus by empowering bailiffs to arrest federal officials and forcibly bring them before the court?

IANAL, but the Supreme Court has a Marshal, among whose duties include “Serve and execute all process and orders issued by the Court or a member thereof”.

To what end? The Supreme Court doesn’t have any original criminal jurisdiction, and appeals don’t generally involve the individual parties in person.

Well, it is possible they could need a reluctant witness?

Here is what I could find, doesnt seem very likely that they would, because I dont think they ever have:

A fake news story spread by a liberal troll website said the U.S. Supreme Court issued a bench warrant for the arrest in a fictional case against the Treasury Department.

“Supreme Court issues its first bench warrant ever,” read the headline on a Nov. 6, 2017, post on We saw the same article on the same day posted to, the fake news site where it originated.

The Supreme Court never has witnesses. Only the official lawyers for the two sides are allowed to speak. They do not argue the facts of the case, either, only the law. There is literally no place allocated for a fact witness.

Could the Court issue a bench warrant if one of the lawyers decided not to appear to force them to make their case? I suppose so, but IANAL and I can’t imagine a plausible scenario for doing so.

What about cases where they have original jurisdiction?

They’ve seen through this seeming loophole.

Relatively few original jurisdiction cases come to the Court. In recent times there have been one or two a year. The Court’s practice in these cases is to appoint a “Master” to hear the evidence, determine facts, and recommend a decision. This allows the Court to deal with the dispute very much like it does with those that come to it on appeal, for it puts the Court in the posture of reviewing the Master’s findings and recommendations in the light of legal arguments made by the opposing parties.

Again, it may not be impossible to hypothesize a case in which a fact witness might be necessary, but the norms of the Court - still intact - are very much against that.

Presumably the master in a original jurisdiction case has subpoena powers and could issue warrants to enforce them? So not the Supreme Court directly, but derived from their authority?

I’m not sure the question is whether or not a justice of the Supreme Court could sign an arrest warrant (I have no idea, but I assume they could. That said, there is not going to be any ordinary process to effectuate such a thing), but whether it could be served in a way to “bypass the executive branch.”

Generally, a bench warrant issued by a federal court would be served by the United States Marshals Service which has the statutory authority to “execute all lawful writs, process, and orders issued under the authority of the United States” and to “investigate such fugitive matters, both within and outside the United States, as directed by the Attorney General.” But the USMS is, as you seem to recognize, a executive branch agency under the authority of the Department of Justice.

The Marshal of the Supreme Court (and the Supreme Court police) is a judicial branch official, who has authority to “[s]erve and execute all process and orders issued by the Court or a member thereof” and he has arrest authority, but only when “polic[ing] the Supreme Court Building and grounds and adjacent streets to protect individuals and property” or protecting the justices or other court employees.

I don’t know whether the power to “execute all” “orders” is sufficient to authority him to arrest people other than in connection with his role policing the Supreme Court grounds and/or protecting court staff (cf. the USMS also has broad arrest authority, 18 USC 3052, but I don’t know if that’s what they rely on to serve arrest warrants. In contrast, special agents of the FBI, DEA, and ATF are explicitly given authority to “serve warrants” and make arrests).

I also don’t know how such a thing could come to pass. If the Supreme Court wanted to institute contempt proceedings, it would refer the case to a district court, I think, and the USMS would handle process. It has no original criminal jurisdiction. Even if it issued subpoenas for civil witnesses, the mechanism for enforcing such a subpoena would likely be a referral to the district court.