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1-24-2013 -- Utah Sheriff/’s Association Letter – Clarification
Utah Sheriff’s Association Letter – Clarification (Summit Co. Sheriff Dave Edmunds contributing)
At no point does our letter insinuate that the executive orders issued by President Obama are unconstitutional. Moreover, it should be noted that state peace officers are under no obligation to enforce presidential executive orders—those are directed to executive officials under the president’s direct command. It should also be noted that the United States Supreme Court (USSC) has ruled that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. All we did was affirm our duty to protect the Constitution. It just so happens that our position is consistent with the Court’s recent rulings on the Second Amendment. We are not suggesting that we have the authority to supplant the USSC as the supreme arbiter of constitutional authority; you will find nothing in our letter that even comes close to this.
The letter is intended to be nothing more than an affirmation of our duties as constitutional officers. All branches swear (or affirm) an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If any branch of government runs afoul of the Constitution, it is incumbent upon the other branches to bring it back into line. It has been suggested that the executive branch has no authority to challenge the other branches of American government; and it is somehow subservient to the others. Not so. That is the genius of the system of government we have. Although the USSC is the supreme arbiter of the Constitution, it can also be checked by the other branches if it becomes corrupt (we are not suggesting it is currently corrupt). However, the USSC has made some exceptionally unconstitutional rulings in its past (Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson). Thankfully,in Brown v. Board of Education the USSC reversed itself.
If executive branch officials are supposed to be nothing more than order takers, then Bull Connor (Birmingham Alabama’s public safety commissioner during the Civil Rights Era) and his ilk were justified in depriving African Americans of their constitutional right to fully integrate into society. If you will recall, cities and states in the Deep South had laws on the books excluding racial integration (in opposition of Brown v Board of Education). I wonder how different the Civil Rights Era would have been if sheriffs in the Deep South would have told legislative branch officials in their respective states, counties and cities that they would not enforce unconstitutional laws against African American citizens. If the executive branch does nothing more than carryout orders given to it from the other branches of government, and it has no responsibility to interpret the constitutionality of the laws it enforces, then why were executive branch officials in Nazi Germany prosecuted under American and British jurisprudence at Nuremberg? Prosecutors correctly held the executive branch of Nazi Germany responsible for the unconstitutional laws it enforced against its own people and others. The defense that unconstitutional laws justified their actions was not upheld. Under American governmental theory, all branches of government have a duty to interpret the Constitution.
Utah citizens should applaud the sheriffs of Utah for our sophisticated understanding of the Constitution. We would not have the executive branch relegated to a backseat on the bus…
As long as I hold public office, I will keep my oath.
Sheriff Terry L. Thompson
Weber County Sheriff