Is Local Government Really Irrelevant?

BY Herschel Smith
7 months ago

Robert Verbruggen writing at NRO.

The legal force of these resolutions is limited, thanks to local governments’ status in relation to the states where they’re located. The Constitution protects states and localities from certain forms of federal meddling — including the “commandeering” of law-enforcement efforts — but it’s silent on the rights of localities against states. Local governments exist only because states choose to recognize them, they possess only the powers states choose to grant them, and a state government can override any local law it wants. Counties can declare themselves sanctuaries and fire employees who don’t go along, but only until the state decides to put a stop to it.

I think he’s badly underestimating not only the constitutional authority of the Sheriff (most specifically, the state constitutions), but the resolve of the people as well.  One might argue to the contrary.

If the sheriff sounds like something from the American frontier, that’s because it is. The role of sheriff goes back to England where sheriffs were usually appointed by the Crown and other officials to oversee the laws of the shire, or county. Duties included tax collection and running a local militia, also called the posse comitatus—citizens who would moonlight as law enforcement.

In America, sheriffs played a particularly pivotal role in Southern states where they served as chief law enforcement officers. (Northeast states relied on constables, who are more like the police chiefs of today.) Sheriffs got to take cuts from fees, one of the perks of the job, in addition to collecting salaries. As America expanded westward, those states adopted the Southern sheriff model. As states drafted their constitutions, they often included an elected sheriff position. Right now, at least 40 states have elected sheriffs. [James Toberlin / Virginia Law Review]

In many regions, especially in the South, sheriffs still have wide jurisdiction and primary law enforcement responsibilities. Unlike police chiefs, who usually report to mayors or other elected officials, sheriffs have fewer checks on their power. Many sheriffs serve long stints in office, and some are in place for decades.

While the precise role of elected sheriffs varies from state to state, they have some duties in common, including overseeing local jails, transporting prisoners and pretrial detainees, and investigating crimes. Some even act as coroners, ruling over a person’s cause of death.

The only states that do not have local sheriffs are Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut, which rely on statewide law enforcement agencies. [National Sheriffs’ Association]

[ … ]

Historically, some sheriffs have not only enforced the laws; they have also decided which laws not to enforce. They view this as protecting the people from the intrusions of the federal government.

The “constitutional sheriff” movement is comprised of current and former members of law enforcement who believe that sheriffs are the ultimate authority in their jurisdiction—even above federal law enforcement. [Robert Tsai / Politico]

While it may seem like a fringe movement [italics HPS] it is prevalent enough to be taken seriously. In 2013, 500 sheriffs agreed not to enforce any gun laws created by the federal government. In Utah, almost all elected sheriffs signed an agreement to protect the Bill of Rights—and fight any federal officials who tried to limit them. [Robert Tsai / Politico]

I see that National Review continues its tilt towards bad analysis.


Comments

  1. On December 10, 2019 at 12:44 pm, Fred said:

    “…but it’s silent on the rights of localities against states.”

    Localities don’t have rights, people do. This is the error, probably first as propaganda but now picked up and parroted even by supposed freedom lovers. Those who say that they are for liberty continue to confer both rights and the ability to dole out rights to governments. Only people have rights, should they be so blessed by God. These rights come by adherence to their duties unto God; all else is creation (which may take the form of property). The duties and subsequent rights and properties are Gods to give or withhold.

  2. On December 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm, Sanders said:

    Local government is only irrelevant when the people do nothing.

    People are waking up.

    My small town council voted to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary town after 120 folks showed up at the town council meeting to demand it. One lady spoke against it, and she’s lucky she didn’t get lynched in the parking lot.

    Then we recently had a town meeting in a local church to discuss the corruption in the mayor’s office. Over 350 people showed up, which was more than who voted in the last town election (No excuse for NOT voting, neighbors!) Again, temperatures were high in folks – including a couple former mayors. We will effect change – real change that is meaningful and benefits everyone by removing corruption.

    These local, town matters will move up to the county level, and hopefully state level. People are like cattle. They like to follow the herd. If the herd is moving in a good direction, they’ll follow. Unfortunately, the converse is also true – if the herd moves in a bad direction, those same ones will go that way as well.

  3. On December 11, 2019 at 5:41 am, Duke Norfolk said:

    We’re very close to the point where the legalities of it all are irrelevant, moot; if we’re not already there. Our legal system is obviously no longer based on the principles of the Constitution (fed and state), but about power based on who/whom.

    The real issue is the politics of power; what the people support, and what they are willing to fight for, with words and actions. Which quickly leads to the tenets of 4GW warfare, and the moral level of warfare.

    It’s going to get interesting, very quickly, it would seem.

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