LET’S SEE IF I’ve got this straight:
—Garrett County’s elected sheriff (see photo) says he won’t enforce Maryland’s new gun registration law because he believes it is unconstitutional. In three other rural counties, elected leaders pass resolutions proclaiming defiance and denouncing the law.
—Baltimore’s City Council unanimously approves a bill requiring city building contractors to hire locally, even though the city solicitor says this is such a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution it is “legally indefensible.”
—Frederick County’s commissioners mock the state’s stormwater remediation fee — the so-called “rain tax” — by setting a penny-a-year charge on residents, thus netting $487 for watershed improvements. It’s their way of “complying” with the law.
In each case, rebellion is afoot, a form of modern-day nullification.
No court has ever upheld the legal theory of nullification, which essentially says if you don’t like a law you simply declare it null and void — the ultimate in libertarian individualism.
Under the guise of nullification, some Maryland politicians recently took it upon themselves to interpret the law the way they want it.
Sheriff Rob Corley announced he would decide for himself when he’ll enforce the state’s new gun law. The 14-year veteran of isolated Garrett County’s police department declared the law unconstitutional — apparently based on the fine legal training he received as an undergraduate at West Virginia’s Fairmont State College.
This raises the obvious question: What laws will Corley enforce? Does he get to pick and choose? Who made him arbiter?
The good news is Corley will play no role in carrying out the new gun registration law. The Maryland State Police can handle this chore without the sheriff’s offer of non-assistance, thank you.
The bad news is that citizens of Garrett County must be wondering what kind of sheriff they elected. He’s only going to enforce some of the laws? Since he’s the sheriff he must think he can make things up as he goes along. So much for a state legislature, governor and the courts.
Meanwhile in Baltimore City the nullification farce took a different tack. Instead of obeying the U.S. Constitution, City Council President Jack Young and his equally hapless colleagues passed a local hiring ordinance that snubs the Supreme Court. So what if this law is unconstitutional? We want a local hiring mandate!
Not one member had the integrity to disagree with this farce. Even the mayor ducked: She said the bill would become law without her signature. What a portrait of courage!
To rub in the insult, Council President Young submitted a bill seeking an “independent” legal adviser for the council. He didn’t like the city Law Department’s ruling so he wants to hire his own lawyer, whose job will depend on pleasing the Council president. Nice way to squander taxpayer dollars.
Finally in Frederick County, the tea party commissioners came as close as they dared to declare the “rain tax” null and void. One dissenting commissioner compared passage of a penny-a-year fee to a child throwing “a tantrum on the floor in the middle of a department store.”
That’s par for the course for the ring-leader, Commissioner Blaine Young, who wants to be governor. It was widely viewed as a political stunt, one of many by Young. Yet if this defiance persists Frederick is still obligated to finance $112 million worth of watershed cleanup. $487 a year won’t cut it. One day the cleanup bill will come due — only it will be much more expensive by then.
So nullification lives on in Maryland, from both the far left and the far right, in the urban core and the Appalachian mountains. The land of the free and the home of the brave!