In Maine, a different sort of Governor vs Sheriff showdown

Earlier this month we looked at the story of County Sheriff Tim Howard from western upstate New York. After the Empire State’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, put out one of his sanctuary state messages about not cooperating with ICE, Howard basically told him to go pack sand. His brief statement on the subject was to inform the citizens that his men, “have sworn a solemn oath to uphold the law. Today, I have instructed my Deputies to continue enforcing the law, irrespective of Governor Cuomo’s executive order.”

This week the shoe is on the other foot with a very different story out of Maine. Up there, a couple of Sheriffs have indicated that they would take it upon themselves to ignore detainer orders from ICE. In response, Governor Paul LePage let them know that they may be unemployed shortly thereafter if that’s the case. (The Daily Caller)

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage vowed to fire any sheriff who defied his order to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials in a letter sent Tuesday.

LePage explicitly threatened to remove any sheriff who refuses to comply with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to extend the detention of arrested individuals suspected of violating federal immigration law…

The letter, which references LePage’s authority to dismiss Sheriffs who defy his orders, appears to be directed at Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce. Joyce informed ICE in a Sept. 14 letter that he would not comply with requests to detain arrested individuals beyond their scheduled release date, absent a warrant.

As I pointed out in the New York case, the removal of sheriffs can be complicated. The Governor of New York is empowered to do so, but only after citing the infraction the sheriff is supposedly guilty of and providing the sheriff with the opportunity to answer the charges. Maine’s constitution isn’t too much different. The relevant section is found in Article 9, Section 10.

Section 10. Tenure of sheriffs. Sheriffs shall be elected by the people of their respective counties, by a plurality of the votes given in on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, and shall hold their offices for 4 years from the first day of January next after their election, unless sooner removed as hereinafter provided.

Removal of sheriffs from office and replacement. Whenever the Governor upon complaint, due notice and hearing shall find that a sheriff is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed upon the sheriff by law, the Governor may remove such sheriff from office and appoint another sheriff to serve for the remainder of the term for which such removed sheriff was elected. All vacancies in the office of sheriff, other than those caused by removal in the manner aforesaid shall be filled in the same manner as is provided in the case of judges and registers of probate.

There’s a fair bit of road to travel in this version as well. Complaint, due notice and hearing leaves room for a lot of wiggling. And who determines if the sheriff isn’t “faithfully or efficiently performing” their duties? They won’t have much to draw on in terms of precedent because it turns out that no Sheriff has been removed from office via this provision of the constitution in the entire history of the state.

This is where the entire #RESIST movement seems to bog down. We’re launching into unknown territory here, with the executive branch at both the state and federal level running into political battles with law enforcement along the way. In an ideal world they’d all be pulling the oars in the same direction, but I’m afraid we’ve veered a bit away from business as usual of late.