Facing criticism about judicial security lapses and his leadership from federal judges and some members of Congress, U.S. Marshals Service Director Benigno G. Reyna announced yesterday that he is resigning.
Typically reserved judges publicly criticized Reyna's management to Congress after a frustrated litigant broke into the Chicago home of U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow in February and killed her husband and mother. They complained that Reyna had failed to devote staff and money to the service's primary duty of protecting judges and was channeling resources into other projects.
In a private meeting with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in March, several federal judges on a national judicial leadership committee urged him to consider removing Reyna from office, judicial sources said.
In a statement yesterday, Gonzales announced Reyna's resignation without explanation and thanked him for his service.
"Benigno Reyna has served as director of the U.S. Marshals Service with integrity and skill," the statement said. "As a law enforcement officer with more than 29 years of experience, he has shown steadfast leadership in directing the Service in the months and years following the September 11th attacks, as well during its work with state and local law enforcement in Operation Falcon, which resulted in the arrests of more than 10,000 fugitives."
Reyna did not return telephone calls to his office yesterday seeking comment. Justice spokesman Kevin Madden said he was not sure precisely when Reyna would leave his post, or who would serve as acting director.
Formerly chief of the 130-member police force in Brownsville, Tex., Reyna became director of the Marshals Service in October 2001. He almost immediately faced skepticism from judges and regional U.S. marshals about his experience for the job. The agency had a staff of 4,200 and a budget of $733 million in 2004, according to the Justice Department.
Dick Carelli, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said yesterday that his office hopes the next leader of the agency will have Gonzales's full support and that the service will be accorded more respect within the Justice Department.
"Director Reyna's tenure was hampered by a perennial lack of resources that affected the service's ability to carry out its primary mission -- protecting the federal judiciary," he said. "Many challenges lie ahead. The judiciary looks forward to continuing to work with the Marshals Service to meet them."
In May, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on judicial security, Lefkow emotionally urged Congress to ensure that the agency takes its job seriously and begins analyzing threats to judges. The agency's division of threat analysis was disbanded in the 1990s.
"Five assassinations [of judges and family members] in 25 years tells us that . . . something is wrong in the judicial protection area," Lefkow said then.
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) vowed that lawmakers would intervene, and his committee sent Reyna a six-page letter of detailed questions about how he would improve judicial security.