Unlike cops, sheriffs exercise judicial power, not executive

Sheriff Jim Hammond attends a staff meeting at the Hamilton County sheriff’s department. (Photo HCSO)

Fresh water for the bar, the Clerks, the litigants and the witnesses should be kept constantly in the Court room, in clean buckets, and supplied with clean dippers, tumblers, or other drinking vessels.

— Duties of sheriff, 1891, Gibson’s Suits in Chancery

Policing continues to take lives in Chattanooga, with the latest encounter between an officer and a man shooting bullets into houses.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

One could say safely that the death of a man firing a weapon into houses is not to be counted as a grievous thing, since he had it coming to him and since Cesar Alehandro Ramos, 25, was threatening people by reckless discharge of a firearm. He may have been enslaved by a drug addiction.

Still, there should be on the part of city employees care and concern for the life of each person in the city limit and a great reluctance to take life. There is a wide swath of possibility in such encounters, but district attorneys and investigating sheriff’s officials and the grand jury will usually defer in favor of the officer, particularly if the slain person was armed.

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

Where does the police department’s power come from? What is the source of this power? Policing across the country is largely unaccountable, and independent, protected through immunity statutes from accountability, their status strongly defended by police unions, almost all of which are progressive Democratic. Mayor Berke is typical in pretending policing is independent of his political office.

It most certainly is not.

How can the revolution of policing against the people be stopped through the instrumentality of the law and appeal through law and petition for redress of grievances?

Probably it will be through appeal to sheriffs to abolish police. Perhaps legally through the reclaiming of long-delegated powers.

According to Sheriff Jim Hammond in an interview, there is a kind of noblesse oblige, or professional courtesy, through which the sheriff’s authority is given by delegation to the police chief of an incorporated area in the county.

These comments are not conclusive, but I believe strongly suggest the true outline of the state violence problem and the direction for a remedy, which at some point should be nailed down by a judge or a court of appeals (assuming these bodies believe in the rule of law — which they partly don’t).

If you’re under 45, sir, you are a member of the Tennessee militia

The remedy of police violence is to abolish police departments, and have the sheriff restore what biblically might be called ethical-judicial government. Is there precedence for restoring the status quo ante — the state of things prior to the creation of state-oriented policing?

Now, I know that many Christians reject the Bible as a source of the law for the public realm. Many Christians believe the Bible has advice and counsel for individuals only and not for judges and governments. However, this claim is a mistake of vast consequences, under which we are suffering today.

Policing is an executive state function, whereas sheriffing appears to be an organic and judicial function. Police are an arm of the modern absolute administrative state. The sheriff is an arm of a limited state that under biblical warrant confines itself serving what today we call the judicial branch of civil government.

From where do sheriffs come?

It is worth considering briefly the origin of the sheriff. If we are fed up with policing and centralized state-law-enforcing “peacekeeping,” we should abolish police departments safely and finally, confident that the peacekeeping and upholding of morality are safe in the sheriff’s hands and those of the people at large.

The Hamilton County sheriff does not take an oath to uphold the constitution, as do judges and clerks, because his office precedes the constitution and even the country.

I also suggest that because under common law every citizen has a right to arrest a criminal in flight already, a right recognized in the Tennessee code. Policing exercises authority that we all have, that is, a power to arrest a criminal if the citizen catches him in the act or fleeing from the act.

Chancery’s enabler, defender

Evidence of this claim is fortified in an 1891 treatise on chancery court by Knoxville chancellor Henry R. Gibson. This famous book, Gibson’s Suits in Chancery, has been updated seven times. I have the 1956 two-volume set, which I have given serious consideration on many points as to law and help you understand your rights.

A foundational point regarding restoration of our liberty: The sheriff is an officer of the court, and the court is the center of justice. He is not an independent power, as police seem to be, but subject to chancery court and the county’s other courts. Of the court Sheriff Hammond is guardian.

In Hamilton County, the sheriff’s job is to protect and serve the courts. This role is one of ancient standing touching on the interest of God in matters of human government.

The ancientness of role

The government of civil life in the Hebrew republic was judicial. There were leaders, such as Moses, such as Joshua and Caleb but their role was largely judicial, not executive. In ancient Israel, the executive life was at the very top in the case of war and in society at large which was a free market economy.

Moses was a judge until he was advised to delegate some of this authority by his father-in-law. The book of Judges tells how the judges of the land such as Samson were also military leaders. In old Israel the top man got the hardest cases and tried them. He led the tribes in war as well. In Israel, there was no general assembly or legislature that had the job of writing and passing laws and no executive to execute them.

Why not?

Because God had given all the law necessary to run either kingdom or confederation. Men did not need a legislature for detailed or new statutes, ordinances or rules. The “law of liberty,” as James calls it in his first chapter, verse 25, is incredibly liberal and free.‡  The people under it are free and liberal. They need so little external threatening government because they are presumed to be subject to self-government. They don’t require supervision, surveillance, detailed rules for their safety, nannyism or  babysitting. God gave a law sufficiently exhaustive in His word, and His first people from the loins of Isaac had plenty of detail.

It is a great contrast in its simplicity of brevity to modern systems of manmade law which are endless, arcane, complicated, vague, requiring special courts, special servants (namely, lawyers) and grave, constant consideration, as the law is always changing and cannot ever be quite learned.

The sheriff and his office rise from the judiciary. In acting as the hands and feet of the court, he is effectively the executive branch of government. Sheriff Hammond executes of Judge Atherton’s orders, or those of criminal court Tom Greenholtz. He is submitted to the court; he is its officer, and not a free-standing executive who imposes his will upon the people.

Sheriff Jim Hammond has been 50 years in law enforcement and peacekeeping in Hamilton County, Tenn. (Photo HCSO)

‘Keep the fire going on cold days’

“As, therefore, the Court is powerless without its Sheriff, it is incumbent on the Sheriff to be always present and ready, in person or by deputy, to discharge every duty that may be impressed upon him, while the Court is in session: and to discharge all duties with diligence, efficiency and in good faith.”

The sheriff’s duty is “to obey all lawful orders of the Chancellor while the Chancery Court is in session; that it is his duty to execute all orders, decrees, and process of the Chancery Court *** and ***that in the execution of process he must use a degree of diligence exceeding that which a prudent man employs in his own affairs.” In doing his duty, he is to “make due return thereof,” meaning make account of his acts.

Gibson suggests ways the sheriff can avoid being negligent and to support the court at five points. “The room should be kept clean, that he windows and doors are in proper order, that there are sufficient tables and chairs *** and that they are kept clean.” Further, he must keep fresh water handy and keep the fire going on cold days.

“The Clerk cannot write with fingers benumbed with cold; the Solicitors cannot do justice to their clients while chilled to the bone; and the Chancellor cannot properly consider the evidence read, and the arguments made, if his mind is disquieted by the manifest discomforts of those about him, and his body is suffering from the exposure to chilling drafts coming from open doors, or broken windows.”

Chancellor Gibson is an able proponent of chancery jurisdiction, perhaps the finest jurisdiction most closely aligned with biblical jurisprudence. The maxims of chancery are astounding in their simplicity and boldness.

For example, “He who is silent (when he ought to object) is considered as consenting (to what is done). *** Necessity is a good defense to what necessity compels one to do.”

Biblical government is judicial, not executive

And so we return now to considering the difference between sheriffing (passive) and policing (active). A judicial state is passive; the court waits for a crime or offense is bought before it. An executive state is at every point on the prowl, creating causes of action and crimes and hauling defendants before the judge.

Policing is a military function, an occupation by a military organization of all that is otherwise civil (civilians, we are called). Policing is militantly executive and humanistic to the core, a prop of the administrative state. It is extraordinarily progressive and serves progressive ends that all work to keep foremost and superior the modern administrative state. Police defend abortion clinics. Police gun down labor activists and mine protesters (OK, in the early days). Police surveil protests and journalists.

Police warrior cops corrupt sheriffs

They seize firearms from people, as officers did fatally last week in Anne Arundel County in Maryland in enforcing a gun control law. Police harass people who are traveling, even though state government in its plea for federal cash assures the Washington government that “The Tennessee Highway Patrol of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is the sole agency in the State of Tennessee responsible for enforcing laws related to size, weight, and safety regulations for commercial motor vehicles.” Police operate as a kind of unauthorized and private gang, whose activities are supported by grand juries and petit juries, its crimes excused. 

Policing invariably serves the interests of the state, its master, and not the interests of the people, or of justice. Policing and military-oriented sheriffing are responsible for 1,200 killings a year among Americans, far more than Muslim terrorists. Policing is a sort of American sharia, with a trigger easily pulled and usually impossible for its victim to predict.

Sheriffs across the U.S. have in large measure joined the tribe of “warrior cops” described in Radley Balko’s book of that name. A restoration of liberty, a taking back of Americans’ forgotten liberties, will come by elevating sheriffs at the expense of police and finally abolishing them.

‡ James 1:25. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Common law origins, community spirit

Sheriff Jim Hammond tells about his office, and indicates its close connection with the court and the jail. (Hamilton County sheriff’s office)

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