What happens when you’ve had too much Jack Daniels? Well, if you’re one of Chicago Tribune’s apparent Democrat operatives with a byline, you get arrested for driving the wrong way down a one-way street in Springfield. Maybe boozing helps write political commentary for the Chicago Tribune?
Or maybe you write, along with your fellow hack about how sheriffs have an obligation to follow all laws even if they are plainly unconstitutional. At least when it comes to guns. Enforcing illegal immigration laws? Maybe not so much.
Burp. “Bartender, pour me another three fringers pwease.”
It’s disappointing and perplexing how reporters at a major American newspaper could embrace a principle so wrong – and so long agreed to be wrong.
Can law enforcement officers decline to enforce laws they reasonably believe to be unconstitutional while they wait for answers from the courts?
Yes, of course they can — and should under the right circumstances when there’s a reasonable expectation that a law will be struck down by the courts. That’s what we wrote here in January – an answer we think should be obvious. Enforcement officials at all levels often do just that.
But Chicago Tribune reporters Rick Pearson and Jeremy Gorner wrote this month – in a news piece, no less, not an opinion column – that that position is wrong and extremist. It “represents an increasingly rightward tilt among law enforcement nationally toward what is known as the “constitutional sheriff” movement, they claim.
The “constitutional sheriff” movement that Pearson and Gorner were trying to invoke is a fringe, dangerous position held by a few fanatics, mostly in western states, that sheriffs somehow have powers that override all law, even the U.S. Constitution.
In truth, that movement has nothing to do with the topic of the article. It was used by the Tribune authors to try to paint as extremist a viewpoint that has long been settled.
Yeah it gets better.
You can’t remember what you wrote in response to our story? Calling it “utterly wrong, irresponsible and biased?” Really? Posse Comitatus https://t.co/54cFiaFqEf— Rick Pearson (@rap30) March 28, 2023
One of those reporters went still further, specifically naming us. Our Wirepoints column makes us at Wirepoints “posse comitatus,” wrote Pearson, a veteran Tribune reporter, on Twitter. Posse comitatus is shorthand for the notion that law enforcement officials can round up a mob of citizens to do rough justice as they see fit.
In other words, the Tribune writers think police should enforce whatever is legislated regardless of whether that would violate the Constitution, and anybody who says otherwise is a rightwing nutjob defying the rule of law.
It’s funny how a guy with alcohol abuse in his past (is he also the Chicago newspaper reporter who beat his wife?) has such a warped view of the world. Or maybe he thinks his pals ought to disregard the rule of law and the Constitution and just enforce the will of tyrants.
Betcha he would sing an entirely different tune if legislation infringed on the First Amendment as the Illinois Firearms Ban Act infringes on the Second. Yeah, we have a feeling he would scream like a pig who just had his nuts cut off if the shoe were on the other foot.
But that’s how would-be tyrants usually act.
Let’s continue, shall we?
Pearson and Gorner made this bizarre claim in support of the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA), which restricts assault weapons and establishes a registry for certain firearms. A reasonable defense of PICA could have been written, but Pearson and Gorner didn’t attempt that. Instead, they made the sweeping argument that police are obliged to enforce whatever is legislated, and you’re an extremist crank if you think the Constitution imposes limits that must be respected by public officials.
That would of course include not only Wirepoints but the roughly 91 of Illinois’ 102 county sheriffs who aren’t enforcing parts of PICA pending an answer on its constitutionality, and everybody who agrees with those sheriffs.
Set aside for now your opinions about PICA and consider the vast implications of what Pearson and Gorner assert.
Understand that this is not about prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion is broad – too broad, some think – allowing prosecutors to pick and choose who to prosecute for just about any reason. That discretion can be abused, as it has been by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who fails to prosecute violent criminals for her own political reasons and personal philosophies. It’s not the job of a prosecutor to substitute his or her judgment for the policy judgment of a legislature or city council.
Instead, something much bigger is at issue when a law is thought to be unconstitutional: The Constitution is supreme. What a governor and the legislature say together, through laws they enact, is not the end of the story. It has been that way since 1803, when the Supreme Court ruled in Marbury v. Madison that a law made in violation of the Constitution is void.
Law enforcers of any kind are right to decline enforcement of any law they reasonably believe, in good faith, to be unconstitutional, providedthey go to court quickly and abide by the results, as we wrote earlier.
The sheriffs and multiple other plaintiffs did just that on PICA. On state constitutional grounds, they’ve won so far. A lower court found earlier this month that PICA violated the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court has fast-tracked the state’s appeal of that with oral arguments scheduled for May.
They close with this:
It’s a sad day for journalism and the country when a paper like the Tribune dismisses constitutionalism as extremism.