Common-Law Sheriff Course
American Sheriff at Common Law
Sheriff Dar Leaf of Michigan and Brent Allan Winters, Attorney at Law
Length of Course:
This is a self-directed course, presented in 12 lessons.
Your Constitutional Sheriff™ is foundational to our common-law tradition of government.
This course called has three parts:
I. History of the American Sheriff: from where does the office come.
II. Present-day duties of the American Sheriff: real-life examples of how he operates.
III. Future of the American Sheriff's office: how we fit in to his duties.
First, this course unpacks how the Anglo-Saxon office called sheriff laid the foundation for the American sheriff’s role as a constitutional (law of the land) officer by the people’s direct choosing; and as such enjoys independent discretion in carrying out his duties. Police chiefs are bureaucrats, appointed to their place within the chain of command of a city government, and as such, with diminished discretion; the sheriff, by contrast, is autonomous from the inner chains of delegated and re-delegated authority bureaucratic power, and as such wields great discretion.
Second, this course unfolds the law and history of the Posse, from King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon times to the present. At bottom, our posse-comitatus law of twenty-first-century United States is the same as that of ninth-century England. The Sheriff, in carrying out his peacekeeping duties, can summon to his aid every able-bodied adult male of his county. His discretion about whom to summon, when to summon, and how he summons armed men is unfettered within the scope of his jurisdiction.
Third, this course lays bare the relationship between the Posse and the Fourth Militia Clause called the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment fosters a “well-regulated militia,” and, in furtherance of this purpose, it is the sheriff's duty to safeguard the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Posse is not the State's militia, but is the county’s subset of its State militia. As such, the county Posse and the State militia are not identical, but they overlap and are inextricably intertwined so that the disarmament of one would destroy the other.
Fourth, this course draws clear our Constitution's narrow and limited scope of federal jurisdiction, highlighting the Sheriff's broad police-powers jurisdiction and discretion, within his county. (See Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997)).
Fifth, this course reminds us that the county Sheriff—not the the county State's Attorney or the State's Attorney General—is the top law-enforcement officer in the county.
Throughout the course we unfurl real-case instances of the Posse Comitatus in modern times. Posses are volunteer regular corps; they assist Sheriffs during county fairs, weather emergencies, and hostage situations, among many other duties unknown, until the specific need to keep the peace in a specific instance arises.
For a suggested donation of $175 or more
Sheriff's Posse: What is It?
While rioters were destroying our cities in the late 1960s, the case Baltimore v. Silver, 263 Md. 439 (1971) found its way to the Maryland Supreme Court. Baltimore business owners had sued the City of Baltimore for damages because the City failed to suppress rioting. Baltimore said that it was not responsible for damages because of the nature of the destruction. The Maryland Supreme Court, however, disagreed, holding that the City was responsible for damages because it failed to use the power of the posse (short for posse comitatus, a Latin phrase meaning “the power of the county”) to suppress the rioters: “[A]ny official responsible to conserve the peace," said the Court, “must raise the posse, if necessary, in order to suppress rioting.”
At common law throughout our States, the Sheriff has the power and duty to make the hue and cry to the Posse to ferret out and suppress criminal activity. The Sheriff, according to the need and at his discretion, may command to duty any able-bodied man. Centuries of history’s record has established this common-law power of the Sheriff to raise the Posse.
County Posse -vs- State Militia
Though members of the Posse are also members of the Militia, the two have different purposes. The Posse derives its power from the county (its able-bodied men), at the summons and command of their Sheriff; the Posse’s purpose is foremost to keep the county’s peace. The Militia, by contrast, derives its power from the State (its able-bodied men) at the summons and command of its Governor or the President of the United States; the Militia’s purpose, when the State Governor summons, is to keep the peace; the Militia’s purpose when the President summons is to suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions. (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cls.15–16).
Bottom line, the Posse is under local county control; the Militia is not. Both are constitutional and indispensable, but the Posse, being more local, is more foundational. Nowadays some news media outlets falsely claim that “Constitutional Sheriffs” are seeking alliances with anti-government extremists. Such false accusations are anti-government, meant to undermine local government by undermining the Sheriff’s lawful power of the county, called the Posse. We know of no Constitutional Sheriffs seeking alliances with anti-government extremists. In fact, not only are our Posses and Militias lawful, our Constitution requires them. Hence, the Posse and Militia have more lawful character than the government agents seeking to arrest Militia members for fulfilling their duty to keep (safeguard) and bear (carry) arms (guns) under the law of the land called our Constitution. Agencies are creatures of legislatures; the Posse and Militia (the People) existed long before our State and federal governments were even thought of.
To sum up, if rioting threatens any of our lives, liberties, or property (or some combination thereof); or if a State governor, State attorney general, or other office holder calls rioting a mere ideology or freedom of expression, instead of a serious threat, denounce such anti-government evil, and support our law’s requirement of local government, called the Sheriff’s Posse.
—Sheriff Dar Leaf & Attorney Brent Allan Winters