Article by Gary Kent
Having spoken at length with Judy Larkin, I know that she is sincere in her advocacy of the idea of a “Constitutional sheriff.”
In her recent letter, she begins one paragraph, “Any sheriff who swears to uphold the Constitution and then does not is a fraud.” (See that paragraph and the one beginning, “There are laws on the books like it (the S.A.F.E. Act), and the sheriff must examine these in the light of the Constitution.”)
The procedures we have for passing laws assumes lawmakers read what they vote to approve. I know personally that what should happen doesn’t always happen. The excuse that they didn’t have time to read it before voting is preposterous. Assuming conscientious lawmakers, such a scenario should produce additional “no” votes, rather than, as many suggest, result in passage of a measure that would not have become law otherwise!*
In a nation of laws, laws (that are) on the books remain laws until the courts determine otherwise. That is what the authors of the Constitution expected and provided.
The sheriff is part of the executive branch. As such, he carries out court orders as well as the wishes of those charged with making the laws—the elected representatives of the people.
Though the United States Constitution does not mention “sheriffs” that I am aware of, it does say that the chief executive (the President, Article II, Section 3), “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Mr. Organisciak’s answer to the first question asked at the S.C.O.P.E. forum was an answer consistent with our Constitutional system. Don Organisciak was the only candidate who answered the S.A.F.E. Act question forthrightly and in a manner consistent with the United States Constitution.
For that matter, the courts have begun looking at the law and have, so far, decided that it is, with few exceptions, Constitutional. I trust that the ruling will be appealed.
If our system allowed a sheriff to dismiss laws he/she found objectionable constitutionally, he/she, would be placing himself/herself above the law. In our Constitutional system, the role Ms Larkin asserts for the sheriff, in fact, belongs to the courts.
Though Don Organisciak has problems with the S.A.F.E. Act, he was not afraid to say that, as sheriff, in good conscience, he could not say that he wouldn’t enforce it without encouraging disrespect for the law.
Ms. Larkin is entitled to her opinion. I would urge your readers to reflect on where the effective disrespect for the law (and the Constitution) she advocates would lead.
*In fact, the Orleans County legislature did exactly the opposite in 2010 when they voted “yes” on a resolution disapproving of several State firearms related measures. Rather than read the entire packet of measures provided by S.C.O.P.E., they voted to disapprove a proposed State bill that would have increased penalties for those who injure law enforcement with a firearm in the commission of a crime! Four of your current legislators would not stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives daily for us.