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Senators skeptical of sheriff authorization law

By   /   January 21, 2011  /   News  /   3 Comments


HELENA – More than two dozen people testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday morning in favor of a bill that states the local sheriff must “authorize federal employee arrest search or seizure.”

     Republican Sen. Greg Hinkle, of Thompson Falls, sponsored Senate Bill 114 because of what he called a “growing concern” about “a government which looks the other way while its agents abuse the power of their offices.”

     In testimony, supporters cited examples like Waco, Ruby Ridge, and other incidents where government agents were criticized for their handling of law enforcement issues. About six people testified in opposition to the bill saying it was unnecessary and encroached on established federal jurisdiction.

     Both sides featured a county sheriff in testimony.

     Tom Rummel, sheriff of Sanders County, said the bill would provide a “safeguard.”

     “I feel this bill will give me…the ability to monitor and control any federal involvement in my county,” Rummel said.

     Jim Cashell, Gallatin County Sheriff, said he appreciated the confidence residents voiced in the county sheriffs. However, he said a sheriff that interferes with a federal officer in the performance of his duty would likely be in violation of federal law.

     “We know how to deal with the federal government,” Cashell said. “It’s counterproductive.”

     The bill appeared to face some harsh scrutiny from members of the committee.

     Republican Sen. Jim Shockley, of Victor, said he sympathized with many of the points made by supporters but believes the issue was settled when the South surrendered to the North at the close of the Civil War.

     “That seems to say…the federal law is supreme over the state law, whether we like it or not,” Shockley said.

     Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a leading supporter of the bill, disagreed.

     “It’s my opinion that did not establish any legal precedent whatsoever,” he said.

     Democratic Sen. Shannon Augare, of Browning, said he felt like federal law enforcement officials had been “bashed” at the hearing.

     “Why would we seem to target our federal officers when they’re here upholding our Constitution?” Augare said. “These are fellow Montanans and people who serve…honorably.”


Michael formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • http://www.oathkeepers.org/ Elias Alias

    A transportation problem prevented me from driving to Helena this morning to join those testifying on behalf of passage of this bill. I am glad the Watchdog quickly published some highlights of the hearing. From this report I would submit my first impressions.

    Senator Shockley’s remark concerning the outcome of the Civil War as establishing Federal superiority over State law is quite a leap in both law and in logic. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s Mack/Printz vs USA case of 1997, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority opinion, stated quite clearly that the Federal constitution created a “system of dual sovereignty”. We must always remember that the several States created the Federal government – the Federal government did not create the several States. That realization should apply whenever we discuss any Federal wish to over-ride Montana’s law. Montana presently has two laws which the Federal government has decided to ignore, to disrespect, and to over-ride – the Medical Marijuana law and the Montana Firearms Freedom Act of 2009. In the latter, the BATFE immediately wrote to all FFLs in Montana to announce that the Feds care not one whit what the people of Montana desire for their State, and that Federal law trumps State law regarding firearms. The fact that the Federal constitution, at Amendment Two, states that our right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed” is blatantly usurped by any Federal law regarding firearms, and the Feds have used a questionable interpretation of the ‘commerce clause’ to violate its own founding legal charter and the written law of Montana regarding Federal regulation of firearms.

    Secondly, I and Hospice helped comfort my room-mate as he died of cancer at my home after the Medical Marijuana law had been passed in Montana, and my room-mate’s Doctor would not prescribe my room-mate’s choice of pain relief, marijuana, stating candidly that the Federal government had threatened the license of any Doctor who prescribed marijuana – thusly denying a dying man, my friend and room-mate, the medication he sought to ease his pain.

    I would ask both Senator Shockley and Senator Augare to 1) study closely to see if there truly was any “legal precedent” established on the law books of the Federal government and/or the State of Montana government by the outcome of the Civil War, and, 2) realize that Federal agents do indeed have a notorious record of violating State citizens’ constitutionally-protected rights.

    The key to understanding this question is in the Mack/Printz vs USA case of 1997 and its conclusion regarding “dual sovereignty” as created by the Federal constitution.

    Thank you for the venue.



  • http://www.oathkeepers.org/ Elias Alias

    In my previous comment I addressed two Senators’ reactions to the proposed bill. Not knowing how much text I could add to one posting, I chose to use a second post to comment on the bravery and savvy demonstrated by Sheriff Tom Rummel of Sanders County.

    Sheriff Rummel, on behalf of Oath Keepers I would like to offer you my sincere thanks for standing up for the constitutional rights of your County’s citizens. I long for the day when all Montana Sheriffs will become cognizant of the dangers carried into Montana by Federal agents who themselves have no clear understanding of the U.S. Constitution and who would violate the rights of citizens in Montana’s Counties. It is indeed refreshing, and a source of hope, to see a Sheriff stand up for his citizens against potential Federal usurpation and intrusion. Thank you for your service to Sanders County and the great State of Montana.



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