KN, p. 243 “Where Did They Move the Graves?”


“May he/she rest in peace.” a statement made by attendees at most funerals in one form or another. We all want our loved ones to rest in eternity, free of any earthly concerns. We assume that for those being interred in a graveyard or other burial site, that the body will remain in that spot, marked in some way (by a headstone or plaque) to allow visitation by the heirs in years to come.


To many grieving loved ones, to disturb that resting place would be a desecration, no matter what the cause for doing so. But, however offended we may be at the idea of anyone digging up Grammie or Auntie Millie, States and municipalities have the right of Eminent Domain and that stretches to include moving graves if needed for the public good.


One comment made by some less sensitive, but motivated to complete the projects: “the dead are dead, so they won’t care.”


A common response made by the people affected: “the souls will haunt the diggers until finally able to rest.”


I read recently that sections of a central North Carolina church cemetery stand in the way of the highway department’s wish/need to remove a potential traffic bottleneck. I stood next to the road during ‘rush hour’ one day and there was never bumper to bumper congestion. Four years ago, somebody predicted that traffic would double by 2039, and as a result, this project was conceived. Hmmm. The plan is to widen the road from two to four lanes. Unfortunately, part of the church is about 30 feet from the road and the cemetery is not only smack dab next to the road, but is on both sides of the road. In 1831, when the church was erected on a peaceful country lane, nobody expected a major highway to be constructed a 1/4 mile away, let alone that the country lane would need to be widened to accommodate motor vehicles.


By NC State Law, relatives of the deceased in the ground must be notified of any intent to move the bodies. On occasion this happens because of cemetery re-design (unforeseen flooding, earthquakes, mudslides). In the case of natural disasters, relatives would most likely be okay with digging up coffins and having them moved to safer places. In rare instances, a body can be exhumed by court order when there is a suspicious death under investigation. And, permission isn’t needed from the immediate family in most jurisdictions when criminal mischief is the reason for the exhumation.


In NC, the plan is to relocate 206 of the 2000+ bodies to an area behind the church. Why some, not all? The State doesn’t need all the land. What if the church officials can’t reach everyone? The next of kin has had two years to reply, but what if the last known address doesn’t work anymore? What if all the heirs have died as well? The church will leave a marker near where the body had been (in some cases for 100 years) letting interested parties know where they can now find the grave and headstone. Yes, the headstones are to be moved as well.


I can tell you that people are upset, while some accept the reality. They’ve had almost two years since notification to adjust to the news and react. Stakes are in the ground reminding the congregation and heirs that the State is serious. Lawyers have been involved, negotiations to make adjustments to the plan have been underway, petitions to stop the project altogether have been filed. Blue flags indicate the dividing line between moving and staying put, although if the church followed the line exactly, in one case a family would be split up and the family headstone would be sliced in half. So, sane heads prevail and decisions are made to do the least harm.

Who takes care of the cost of moving the headstone and any damage that may occur? In this case, a contractor is being paid to move the headstones, but only pays for damage or repair if it’s specifically in the contract for hire. The NC church has become a go-between of sorts and has a few guidelines in place to ensure the quality and appropriateness of the stones.


Where does the law stand on this?

It varies from State to State, but in general, all living heirs of the dead must be found and notified of the plans to move the graves at the State’s expense (within the State’s definition). If one of them objects, the move cannot happen legally. But trust me, noncompliance can be expensive.


True story: decades ago, a proposed major highway spur was due to be completed in New Jersey. It had been on the books for so long that the locals assumed it would never be finished. When the time actually arrived, the homeowners were given a choice to move or stay and be cut off from city services because of the road design. The State finished the project and the locals that stayed lost any possibility of compensation, etc. and did indeed lose access to services, including for a short time having to drive two miles out of the way to exit the housing area. In other words, sometimes permission must be given, but that doesn’t mean the State will make it easy not to comply. If permission isn’t needed for road construction, the contractors will come in and bulldoze anything in the way. Legally.


Is this the first time a graveyard or personal or supposedly protected public property has been impacted by the needs of the many? Not by a longshot.


Golf courses have been built on top of graves, although sometimes accidentally. Read “Cemetery at the Golf Course,” here: http://bit.ly/1tUQ4rX


Eminent Domain covers the destruction and/or reduction of the federal park system.


Eminent Domain comes into play when ancient burial grounds stand in the way of energy development.


Is it legal to be buried on your own property?

What would keep me from bringing Auntie Millie home to my 5 acre piece of property?


There are no laws that prohibit home burial, but you must check local zoning laws before establishing a home cemetery or burying on private land. It is also legally required to use a Funeral Director, even if you are burying on private land. Embalming is only required if a person died of a contagious disease.


Whether in the name of greed or progress, the Eminent Domain stories just write themselves. And plenty have been, both in books and in the movies.


*Notes: There is nothing fictional about this post.
              Photos taken by me, Patti Phillips.




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KN, p. 167 “What does a U.S. Marshal do?”




The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has been around for over 225 years, created by the first Congress to protect/serve the federal courts and make sure the orders of the President, Congress, and Judges were carried out across the United States. It is the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.


I never thought of US Marshals as census takers, but up until 1870 they did that in addition to arresting fugitives and serving subpoenas. Over the years they have also been asked by Congress and the President to capture fugitive slaves, swap spies with the Soviet Union, chase the bad guys, control riots – the basic idea being to help the government run more smoothly when nobody else has been quite qualified to do the job across State lines.


An interesting aspect of their history is that at first, US Marshals answered to the Secretary of State. In 1861, they fell under the Attorney General’s office and then in 1961, became an entity of their own with a Chief Marshal in charge. It has always been the enforcement arm of the federal courts and operates within the Department of Justice.


The 94 US Marshals are appointed by the President and handle the enforcement duties for the 94 federal court districts and the 12 circuits of the US Court of Appeals. They employ over 5,200 deputy Marshals, criminal investigators, administrative employees, and detention enforcement officers. They are in charge of:


  • Judicial Security
  • Fugitive Operations
  • Asset Forfeiture
  • Prisoner Transportation
  • Witness Security




Judicial Security


Since the federal courts preside over cases that involve terrorists groups, organized crime, and other presumed seriously dangerous defendants as well as high profile extortion/fraud cases, the judges, lawyers, and even litigants involved are sometimes the target of violence.


It’s the job of the US Marshal Service to prevent the violence and also to protect the public, witnesses, jurors, prisoners, and innocent bystanders.


In addition, the USMS:


  • Coordinates security for judicial conferences.
  • Protects Supreme Court justices and the deputy Attorney General outside of Washington.
  • Provides support to the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service with protective details for foreign officials while the U.N. is in session.
  • Manages the security services that provide court security officers who screen visitors at building entrances.
  • Provides information to federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners about judicial security, including threat assessment and training.



Fugitive Operations


In 2015, the USMS arrested over 99,000 fugitives.

They cleared over 119,000 warrants.



Asset Forfeiture


The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program seeks to disrupt criminal actions by taking away the means of doing business, while returning property to its rightful owners.


The U.S. Marshals Service helps identify and evaluate the proceeds of crime. They manage and sometimes auction off items as varied as real estate, businesses, cars, jewelry, art, antiques, boats, and planes.


Proceeds from the sales go to operate the program, reimburse victims, and fund various law enforcement operations.


Some of the other agencies that participate in the Asset Forfeiture Program are: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; FBI; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Food and Drug Administration; Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General.



Prisoner Transportation


In 2015, over 261,000 prisoners were transported by air and on land by the USMS.


The U.S. Marshals’ Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System handles over 700 cases a day between judicial districts and correctional institutions in the U.S., for the purpose of getting witnesses to trial or prisoners to jail.


JPATS has its own fleet of aircraft to move prisoners over long distances and is the only government-operated, regularly-scheduled passenger airline in the USA. Both military and civilian law enforcement agencies can use the planes for their prisoner transport – if space is available and only if the USMS is reimbursed.



Witness Security


The U.S. Marshals Service operates the federal Witness Security Program, sometimes called the Witness Protection Program, or WitSec.


Its primary role is to protect government witnesses and their immediate family members (sometimes innocent bystanders and sometimes criminals themselves) whose lives are in danger because of their cooperation in investigations and trials.



For more information about the US Marshal Service, visit www.usmarshals.gov



Future posts will discuss:


  • Qualifications and training needed to become a US Marshal
  • WitSec



*Photo credit: Wikipedia



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KN, p. 165 “What does a lawyer really do?



Ah, the joys of being a TV/movie lawyer. The lawyers wear nice clothes, have offices with great addresses and those fab coffee carts right in front of the office building always have the best bagels and croissants. The TV lawyers get hired with big bonuses at huge law firms even before they finish law school. The cases are always interesting and there’s a large, steady paycheck coming in. Only the lousy lawyers get the so-so cases and the associates do the investigating while writing all the briefs.


Hmmm…maybe not.


In reality, the average beginning lawyer is not wealthy and unless associated with a law firm before graduation (during an internship) will take a few years to get established or have the luxury of being choosy about cases and/or clients.


It differs across the country and whether located in large or small towns, but lawyers can have a variety of specialties. In general, a lawyer advises the client about the legal options available and sometimes represents them in court. They conduct research for the particular case, prepare presentations for court or business meetings, and represent individuals or businesses or organizations. Some lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom, but instead, spend their days writing and filing briefs and contracts.


A lawyer can use the degree as a path to become a judge, to teach in law school, to become a law enforcement officer, or even to become a politician. Some specialties that require special certification include child welfare, real estate, estate planning, elder law, tax law, among several others.


TV lawyers are typically criminal defense attorneys or else they handle high dollar mergers and acquisitions. After all, the real estate contracts that every real-life homeowner in the country has to have, hardly makes for exciting TV. We, as the viewing audience, would rather watch a show about something more fun than deeds and mortgages.



What Does a Criminal Prosecutor Do?

A Criminal Prosecutor is a lawyer that works for a State or Federal authority – sometimes elected, sometimes appointed. His/her job is to bring a case against an accused person in a criminal trial and to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the United States justice system, a criminal defendant is always considered to be innocent until proven guilty. Law enforcement officers gather the evidence and work with prosecutors to put the bad guys away.


Some of the duties of a criminal prosecutor may include:

  • Deciding whether or not to file criminal charges against a suspect
  • Research the facts/information of a case to see if the evidence will support a win, and therefore the expense of a trial
  • Deciding whether or not to conduct plea bargains with opposing attorneys
  • Interviewing witnesses and reviewing their testimonies
  • Presenting evidence to the jury

What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney?

A Criminal Defense Attorney gives legal advice and defends criminal defendants during trial. If a criminal defendant can’t afford a lawyer, the state will provide a public defender. Many criminal defense attorneys work at private criminal defense firms and charge several hundred dollars an hour. 


A criminal defense lawyer frequently offers legal services even before criminal charges have been formally filed against the suspect, by sitting in on (and giving advice during) interrogations by the police or other legal entities. In the United States legal system, a suspect is allowed to ask for an attorney to be present at all questioning sessions, bail hearings, plea bargaining, etc.


Criminal defense attorneys perform these tasks:

  • Assist suspects who have requested the presence of a lawyer during police interrogations
  • Assist clients during the pre-trial period
  • Engage in plea negotiations with the prosecutor, to obtain a reduced sentence or to have the charges dropped
  • Research the facts and laws involved in the criminal case
  • Defend clients during trial
  • Interview key witnesses to obtain testimony
  • File for an appeal or retrial if available
  • Assist with parole issues




If you like the idea of becoming a criminal lawyer, you’ll need:

  • a great eye for detail
  • to write clearly and concisely
  • to speak persuasively to strangers (the jury)
  • to have great investigative skills
  • excellent grades (3.5/B+ or better) in undergrad school
  • $75-250K for three years of law school in addition to your undergrad degree costs


Lawyers in all areas of the private and public sectors have exactly the same list of needs. Still interested? Go for it!


*Photo credit:

Lady Justice, LOUIS J. LEFKOWITZ BUILDING, New York County, NY




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