Sunday, January 20, 2013

Constitutional Arbiter

The other day I came across a Facebook post that reminded me how crazy, supposedly responsible people can be. It was a post of a letter sent to Vice President Biden by an Oregon Sheriff named Tim Mueller. In this letter, Sheriff Mueller details his love of the Constitution and the oaths he has given for his current position, as well as a short stint in the Army and concludes by declaring that he won't enforce any laws he or his citizens consider unconstitutional. Here's the part of the letter that I find just incredible to read, coming as it does from a law enforcement officer, emphasis mine:

"Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County Oregon."

Here we see a prime example of why we can't have a reasonable conversation about guns, not to mention many other subjects. It's because so many people, who seem intelligent, some of whom hold positions of responsibility are, at least on certain subjects, idiots. Sincerely determined ones at that. Let me put it this way, if I may paraphrase what Mueller is saying in this letter:

"Vice President Biden, I, Sheriff Tim Mueller, love the Constitution. I have sworn oaths to protect and defend it as a law enforcement officer and as an MP in the Army. As such, I am an expert on what is and is not Constitutional and not the Courts, as the Constitution would have you believe. Therefore, I am telling you, the Constitutionally elected Vice President of the United States of America, that I refuse to enforce any federal law I don't agree with and will even attempt to thwart enforcement by federal authorities. 

It's irrelevant that any such law was proposed and passed into law under a Congressional framework that is explicitly laid out under the US Constitution. That very same document about which I expressed my undying love at the beginning of this letter. In fact, my adoration for the Constitution is so deep and unyielding that I am willing to violate my own oaths, to that very same document! God bless America and the Constitution!."

I wish this guy was unique, but you might be surprised how many people subscribe to this tortured line of reasoning, either personally or in support of those shrubs who do. It always breaks down to the idea that individual citizens can make a determination about what is and is not Constitutional. Despite the fact that these laws were passed under Constitutional authority. Sure, some laws have been passed and then later ruled un-Constitutional, but that was done through the Court system, as the Constitution explicitly specifies. In fact, laws are treated much like a person's innocence; we assume they are Constitutional, because they were passed Constitutionally, until such time as they are challenged and subsequently ruled to violate the Constitution. You see, that's how this whole 'America' thingy is supposed to work. 

The bottom line is that, as a citizen, you have the right to disagree with a law, call for its repeal, speak out publicly, challenge it in court and demand your representatives work to repeal it. But just because you don't like it, doesn't make it un-Constitutional! It may be unwise, stupid or even corrupt, but you do not have the right to choose what laws apply to you, based on your own, skewed interpretation of the Constitution. And if you're in a position of power and authority, such as Mueller, you sure as hell don't have the right to declare your own personal insurrection against the Constitutional authority of the United States simply because you disagree with something! And to do it under the guise of patriotism is enough to have me reaching for an Excedrin and/or a bottle of Captain Morgan. I've had enough of blowhards who think they can pick and choose what laws apply to them. If we start down that road we stop being the United States and instead become the Confederate Counties of America, where every locality has its own random, illogical laws based not on a governmental framework, but rather the simple minded prejudices of the local authorities. We all know how that works; segregation, discrimination and restrictions on the very liberties that schmucks like Mueller are so hot and bothered about. You see once you start letting individuals choose what laws should be followed, you're setting up every 'Mueller' as their own petty dictator. Put simply, Mueller is actually undermining the very Constitution he is supposedly so devoted to. Is that ironic or just pathetic? No, wait, I think it's both.


  1. Hate to muddy up your fine article with something as pedestrian as logic.

    You are saying that a law can not be unconstitutional before the courts declare it to be, but after a declaration of unconstitutionality it can in fact be unconstitutional. Sort of like when Schrodinger's cat walks into a bar, and doesn't.

    Or let's say I'm a black woman in the 50's and decide that I don't agree with having to sit at the back of the bus, and pick a seat near the front. Am I "declaring my own personal insurrection against the Constitutional authority of the United States"?

    If everyone shared your view we'd certainly be a more peaceful and civil society. Kind of like cattle.

    You have been assimilated, resistance is futile.

  2. I agree with your analysis, but as a matter of historical accuracy, the last part of this statement is not correct:
    "Sure, some laws have been passed and then later ruled un-Constitutional, but that was done through the Court system, as the Constitution explicitly specifies."

    Some argue that it was implied. Ultimately, the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison made it decided law.

    I would argue it was not implied, because the founders made a unique government of 3 supposedly equal branches of government, with checks and balances among them. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, disagreed with Marbury v Madison, believing it put the Supreme Court above the other 2 branches.

  3. Reply to: Anonymous (January 21, 2013)

    You have, apparently, missed the point. I make no claim to being a Constitutional scholar, but do you really think that every law that goes into effect, or Executive Order for that matter, should be interpreted by every single American who can then discard or follow it on their personal whim? Do you really want people in authority like, oh let's say a Sheriff, deciding on his own if he'll follow the laws of the land? Because Mueller's stand on this specific point might strike some people like a stand against tyranny, but one day he or someone like him will take this sort of position on something that those same people DON'T agree with. I bet that will be a whole other kettle of fish then!

    You see, I never said he couldn't protest or challenge some law he disagreed with. Though your reply seemed to imply that. But it strikes me as out of line to use his law enforcement office as his own personal political action committee. It reminds me of a judge in, I believe it was Louisiana, a while back who put up the 10 Commandments at the courthouse. There was a challenge and a higher court ruled against it. Yet this guy just ignored the ruling! Kind of hard to expect regular citizens to follow the law and court rulings when a judge doesn't.

  4. While a sheriff may take an oath that includes defending the constitution, localities are under no obligation whatsoever to enforce federal laws or executive orders before local statutes.

    There are three recent situations of note. First is Arizona SB 1070 relating to immigration, where Arizona specified that state and local law enforcement would simply enforce existing federal law. The administration objected and took Arizona to court. Second is proposed legislation and executive orders infringing upon the 2nd amendment, of which the administration would undoubtedly argue that states and localities are obligated to enforce without question. Third are states that have passed laws directly contradicting federal drug laws, for which the administration has opted for selective (and dubious) prosecution, with no stated official position either way.

    The third example is by far the most ominous and troubling. This goes a lot deeper than officials deciding that a law contradicts the constitution that they may have "sworn to uphold and protect". It's really about ideologues that present one legal argument until it no longer suits their interest, and then argue for the opposite. And this is the ultimate danger of considering the constitution a liquid, time sensitive, loose directive that can and should be modified based on the whim of transient majority (50.0000001% mob rule).

    So again, any society that blindly accepts any law of a central government, regardless of it's logic and constitutionality, are cattle, and fully deserve to have 100% of their rights taken away.


Please let me know what you think, even if it's to disagree.