(1997) This fascinating piece is part of an e-mail to me from Johnny. He assures me that he did not make this up. I can't understand why it hasn't featured as a major news story in newspapers everywhere. Or then again, maybe I can.
(2003) Then check out this version of the story, Gutsy Wyoming Sheriff Bucks Federal Government, sent to me by another correspondent: will the real Dave Mattis please stand up?
(2010) Sheriff Richard Mack sets us straight, citing a Supreme Court decision.Johnny <firstname.lastname@example.org>
County sheriffs in Wyoming have begun to insist that all federal law enforcement officers and personnel from federal regulatory agencies must clear all of their activities through the County Sheriff's Office. speaking at a press conference following the recent US District Court decision (case # 96-CV099-J) Bighorn County Sheriff Dave Mattis stated that all federal officials are forbidden to enter his county without his prior approval,
"If a sheriff doesn't want the Feds in his county he has the constitutional power and right to keep them out or ask them to leave or retain them in custody."
The court decision came about after Mattis and other members of the Wyoming Sheriff's Association brought a suit against both the BATF and the IRS in the Wyoming federal court district seeking restoration of the protections enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution. the District Court ruled in favor of the sheriffs stating that,
"Wyoming is a sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official."
The Wyoming sheriffs are demanding access to all BATF files to verify that the agency is not violating provisions of Wyoming law that prohibit the registration of firearms or the keeping of a registry of firearm owners. the sheriffs are also demanding that federal agencies immediately cease the seizure of the private property and the impoundment of private bank accounts without regard to due process in state courts. Sheriff Mattis stated,
"I am reacting to the actions of federal employees who have attempted to deprive citizens of my county of their privacy, their liberty, and their property without regard to constitutional safeguards. I hope that more sheriffs all across America will join us in protecting their citizens from the illegal activities of the IRS, the EPA, the BATF, the FBI, or any other federal agency that is operating outside the confines of constitutional law. Employees of the IRS and the EPA are no longer welcome in Bighorn County unless they intend to operate in conformance to constitutional law."
The SPOTLIGHT February 7, 2000
Gutsy Wyoming Sheriff Bucks Federal Government
A sheriff in Wyoming has initiated new guidelines for federal officials visiting his county which put power back in the hands of the people.
By James P. Tucker
For more than two years, all federal agents entering Bighorn County, Wyo., have been required to check in with sheriff Dave Mattis and state their intentions.
So far, the few who have ventured into the sparsely populated county have been "cleared" for non-invasive chores.
The requirement that federal bureaucrats need to explain their mission stems from the settlement of a federal lawsuit involving Wyoming citizens and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
INS officials had entered Bighorn County and started a "round up" of what they believed were illegal aliens, the sheriff said. But all those caught in the roundup were American citizens.
After the settlement, "I issued a written policy - that if they have actions in Bighorn County they must tell me what they are doing," Mattis told The SPOTLIGHT.
So far, the few who have entered have "not asked to take real actions," Mattis said.
When asked if he would object to any federal missions, Mattis responded: "I would take it on a case-by-case basis and discuss it."
While this is a significant precedent for local governments protecting their citizens from heavy-handed bureaucrats, Internet reports calling it a "court decision" and quoting the sheriff saying he can detain federal officials in custody are wrong, Mattis said. While an Internet report was being read to him for confirmation Mattis interrupted, saying: "I've seen that."
A similar report emerged from Tennessee, Mattis said, and keeps surfacing, from people who "Write it the way they want it to be." Mattis said he has "no idea where it came from" but it originated in Nashville in 1997.
The Wyoming Sheriff's Association, contrary to Internet reports, is not involved, Mattis said, but "probably some sheriffs are sympathetic."
But even without Internet embellishments, the Bighorn County action is an encouraging sign that states are reclaiming their traditional roles in our government. Cities, towns and counties are mere political subdivisions of States.
The Supreme Court recently handed down decisions reinforcing states' rights, such as telling Congress that it has no role in deciding local schools' "drug-free zones" or requiring state governments to bow to federal age-discrimination laws.
More such states' rights cases are pending, including whether the federal government can restrict laws against abortions in which the court may reverse its own 1973 "Roe" ruling and the usage of medicinal marijuana.
Meanwhile, congress is talking about "returning power to the states" and passed "unfunded mandates" legislation prohibiting itself from imposing financial burdens and duties on states - such as requiring local governments to pay for federal gun "background checks" on gun owners.
Oath Keeper Sheriff Richard Mack
Oath Keeper Sheriff Richard Mack interview after Oath Keepers muster on Lexington Green, April 19, 2009.