There was an event that took place this past Saturday in Shepherdstown that managed to escape the notice of the local press. The Convention for the Constitution was organized though the cooperative efforts of several local organizations: The Blue Ridge Patriots of Berkeley County (www.blueridgepatriots.com) led by Kandi Montini, We the People of Jefferson County (www.wtpwv.com) led by Patricia Rucker and the West Virginia Campaign for Liberty, (www.campaignforliberty.org), under the auspices of Jessica Hayes of Falling Waters and Gina and Chris Anders of Shepherdstown. Yours truly served as the emcee. The organizers originally planned for 100 attendees, but the final count was over 150, completely filling the Senator Robert Byrd Room at the Clarion Hotel. Clearly there is keen local interest in the subject matter.
Throughout the day there were panels and speakers. The panels were focused on the Bill of Rights and fiscal responsibility. Panelists included local residents Larry Wright, Curt Compton, Brett Stone, Gina Anders and Alan Twigg. Additional panelists included Will Upton of Americans for Tax Reform, former prosecuting attorney and constitutional authority from Florida, KrisAnne Hall (krisannehall.com) and Delaware Sheriff Jeff Christopher of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (cspoa.org).
The three speakers were Patricia Rucker, who emphasized the importance of grassroots activism, Sheriff Jeff Christopher and KrisAnne Hall as the keynote.
If I were to pick one overriding theme that emerged from each speech it would be that the Constitution provides for checks and balances, but that there is more to this than what we were taught in school.
In addition to the checks and balances of the three branches of the federal government, there are additional checks against overreach by the federal government that empower state and local governments; the latter through the office of the county sheriff.
In his speech, Sheriff Christopher provided historical context for the office of county sheriff. The term sheriff is derived from “shire reeve,” going back centuries through British common law, upon which U.S. law is based. Additionally, Sheriff Christopher referred to case law, in particular the Supreme Court decision regarding Printz v. the United States in 1997.
That decision affirmed that the county sheriff, the only elected law enforcement official in America and sworn to uphold the Constitution, is the supreme law enforcement authority in a county – even taking precedence over the federal government (By the way, on March 5, the Jefferson County Commission will begin hearings regarding the appointment of our county sheriff. The meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Charles Town Library and the public is encouraged to attend).
Hall clearly galvanized the audience. Her focus was the 10th Amendment and the sovereignty of state government; that under our federal system, the federal government has limited powers delegated to it by the states; all other powers being reserved to the states or the people. One important and perhaps controversial issue she raised was that of nullification, whereby a state government enacts legislation that declares a federal law to be, in effect, null and void.
State nullification of federal law is becoming a national, hot button issue. Last year, Virginia enacted legislation that nullified two provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that purport to give the power to the federal government to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely and without trial in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
Virginia has enacted legislation that nullifies those sections of the NDAA and provides for criminal penalties to any federal agent that tries to enforce them in Virginia. There are other states, such as our own state of West Virginia, that have introduced nullification bills on other issues. In Charleston, one nullification bill has already been introduced and another is on the way.
Throughout the day at the convention, the constitutional role of government was examined, and the discussion remained nonpartisan. Most people I spoke with expressed the view that the federal government has gotten off track, but that the tools to fix it are provided for in the Constitution. The consistent theme was that we need to restore the checks and balances on federal power; that when it comes to government, local and smaller is better.
— Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry.