Sussex County Sheriff Jeffrey Christopher (Photo: WBOC)
GEORGETOWN, Del.- The lawsuit filed by the Sussex County Sheriff finally made it to a Georgetown courtroom Friday.
Last year, Sheriff Jeffrey Christopher sued the state of Delaware and Sussex County to gain police powers. Unlike many other states, sheriffs in Delaware do not have the authority to make arrests.
Christopher argues the Delaware Constitution describes the sheriff as a "conservator of the peace" and should have police powers, as an official elected by the people.
"We presented what we believe is the constitutional essence of this case, and there's no question in our minds, in my mind, that this is a constitutional issue," Christopher said.
In a Georgetown courtroom Friday, attorneys representing the state and county argued the interpretation of the constitutional law. The lawyers pointed out that other public officials, including senators and judges, are also described as "conservators of the peace" in the Delaware Constitution. Judge T. Henley Graves even quipped, "I'm a judge, should I have the authority to arrest people?"
"It comes down to the fact that judges have a role in the administration of justice, the Attorney General has a role in the administration of justice, and the sheriff has a role. You don't see the sheriff up on the (courtroom) bench," Christopher said.
Attorneys referenced similar case law rulings from other states in their exchanges, but their role in Judge Graves' decision is unclear. Before adjourning for the day, Graves informed the court he would be making his ruling based on the laws in Delaware.
"I'm not sure what to make of that. I guess we'll just have to look at what he decides," Christopher said.
Graves is expected to make his ruling within the next several months. The losing side is expected to appeal, with a bump to the Delaware State Supreme Court a possibility.
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