Think law nullification is a quaint old timey southern strategy that was used to defend slavery in the 1860′s and segregation in the 1960′s? An Ohio Sheriff actually wrote a letter to President Obama not only implying the President is an enemy of the people but that the Sheriff would refuse to enforce any law which he personally didn’t agree. That’s right, he thinks the oath he took to uphold the laws and constitution of Ohio and the United States allows him to nullify laws he personally objects to.
In a letter dated February 1st, Hancock County Ohio Sheriff Michael Heldman decided to tell off the President of the United States:
It is with my blessing and my elected position as sheriff of Hancock County, Ohio, that the right of the people in the county which I represent will continue to keep and bear arms for their defense and security, and that right will not be infringed upon by any enemy, foreign or domestic.
Any edict, regulation, or so-called ‘federal law’ which infringes on the right of the citizens of Hancock County, Ohio to keep and bear arms for their security will not be tolerated, recognized or enforced by me or my office.
Yep, Sheriff Heldman not only implies President Obama and the Congress are enemies of the people, but he is actually telling the chief law enforcer of the United States that he will refuse to enforce any law or regulation of his choosing.
That takes balls. He is absolutely bonkers but ballsy. Sheriff Michael Heldman must resign his office.
Heldman needs to re-read the Constitution. Article III only allows review of laws by the courts.
And then we have Article VI, Clause 2 also called the Supremacy Clause:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
Sheriff Heldman took an oath to enforce the laws as set by the local, state, and Federal legislatures. He can’t pick and choose what laws he will enforce. He also isn’t allowed to decide what laws are constitutional. That is for the courts to decide. Now if he wants to become a lawyer and then get appointed to a Federal court then he could make those decisions.
It’s not like nullification is a new idea. It has been tried whenever a group of people have strongly disagreed with some laws.
During the nullification crisis of 1828 to 1834, South Carolina planter politicians formulated a new brand of slavery-based politics that would culminate in the formation of the southern confederacy. The crisis, which began as a dispute over federal tariff laws, became intertwined with the politics of slavery and sectionalism. Led by John C. Calhoun, a majority of South Carolina slaveholders claimed that a state had the right to nullify or veto federal laws and secede from the Union. Nullification and secession, according to Calhoun, were the reserved rights of the states and therefore constitutional. Calhoun’s constitutional theories and the overtly proslavery discourse of the nullifiers laid the political and ideological foundation for southern nationalism.
The result of the efforts of these attempts at nullification eventually led to the Civil War which the south lost and slavery was ended.
The US Supreme Court has also ruled nullification unconstitutional:
In the case of Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958), the Supreme Court rejected the Arkansas effort to use nullification and interposition. The state of Arkansas passed several laws in an effort to prevent the integration of its schools. The Supreme Court, in its only opinion to be signed by all nine justices, held that state governments had no power to nullify the Brown decision. The Supreme Court held that the Brown decision and its implementation “can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted ‘ingeniously or ingenuously.’”
One doesn’t even have to go back that far to find Heldman needs to resign his office.
The Sheriff needs to review the US Constitution and the most recent court decisions about guns especially District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) where the US Supreme court held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home and within federal enclaves and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) which extended that protection to the states.
Heldman also admitted to the Findlay Ohio Courier that the 1994 assault weapons ban wasn’t enforced in Hancock county.
If an elected official, who took an oath to enforce all laws, can’t, through moral or personal objections, enforce those laws, then that elected official needs to resign his office immediately.
Hancock County Ohio Sheriff Michael Heldman must resign.
After some comments from readers on Daily Kos (where this post made DK’s recomended list), I needed to address some points brought up that I think is important to this issue.
Some commentors have pointed out a few things. A local Sheriff doesn’t generally enforce Federal laws and Heldman’s proposed action isn’t any different than some local law enforcers who look the other way about certain drugs laws, draconian immigration laws, or other laws that a police officer thinks is stupid.
Those are valid points and wasn’t something I thought about when writing my post.
If Heldman wrote in his letter and said Obama sucked and he hated the gun laws or the invisible gun laws that Rush and Hannity say are coming then I wouldn’t pay attention to the guy and chalk him up to just another winger – which he is anyway.
I know that police use discretion when they can about enforcing laws – more about time and place than filling the jails. Most people call it “getting a break”. It just happens and if someone raises a stink then we are back to where Heldman is now.
However Heldman’s public letter and implying that the government was the enemy smacked of George Wallace and the other segregationists from the civil rights era. “Normal” police discretion isn’t publicly announced in this way. That is what made me write a post about it.
I personally think there is a difference between laws that benefit the public good and those that single out and punish a certain class of people. The legislature can and does make mistakes – DOMA anyone? But these are still laws on the books and until they are changed or repealed by the lawmakers or the courts, law enforcement is obligated to enforce them.
I see it the same no matter who does it and the reason why. Police who use their discretion in extreme ways also need to resign then. It isn’t their job to decide what laws to enforce. They can complain about those laws and even participate like all voters can and petition lawmakers to change the laws, but they can’t publicly come out and defy a law they don’t like.
Heldman basically just gave a reason he shouldn’t be Sheriff and he should resign.
Here’s the letter: