|Knoxville Journal, pA1 and A6
August 7-13, 1997
SHERIFF BOOTS FEDS FROM HIS COUNTY
by Phil Hamby
Sheriff Dave Mattis of Big Horn County, Wyoming, said this week that as a
result of Case #96-CV099-J, U.S. District Court, District of Wyoming, he now has a written
policy that forbids federal officials from entering his county and exercising authority
over county residents unless he is notified first of their intentions.
After explaining their mission, Mattis said he grants them permission to proceed if he is
convinced they are operating within the legal parameters and authority limitations set
forth in the U.S. Constitution.
The sheriff grants permission on a case-by-case basis only. When asked what, if any,
repercussions he had gotten from the Feds, he quickly and confidently replied, "None
whatsoever." He explained by saying, "They know they do not have jurisdiction in
my county unless I grant it to them."
Mattis clarified his position by saying the federal court had ruled then state of Wyoming
is a sovereign state and the state constitution plainly states that a county sheriff is
the top law enforcement official in the county.
Additionally, Sheriff Mattis contends that the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8,
clearly defines the geographic territories where the federal government has jurisdiction.
Amendment X, he said, states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by
the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people."
Therefore, Mattis thoroughly believes the Feds have very limited powers in any state
unless the local high-sheriff allows them to exercise power beyond that which the
"Put another way," Mattis said, "if the sheriff doesn't want the Feds in
his county, he has the constitutional power and right to keep them out or ask them to
Accompanied with other legal interpretations Mattis stands on the definition of the world
"sovereign," which is defined by Webster's as "paramount, supreme. Having
supreme rank or power. Independent: a sovereign State."
Mattis said he grew weary of the Feds coming into his county and running rough-shod over
county residents: i.e., illegally searching, seizing property, confiscating bank accounts,
restricting the free use of private lands and other abuses, without a valid warrant and
without first following due process of law as guaranteed by the Constitution to every
As long as Mattis remains sheriff he says he will continue to see to it that the citizens
of his county get their day in court.
Mattis went on to say that, to his knowledge, even the IRS has not attempted to seize any
citizen's real property, bank account or any other private-owned possessions since he ran
the Feds out of his county.
Sheriff Mattis emphasized that he is not a radical man. He said he is only dedicated to
protecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of his county.
He added that ordinary citizens are not the only ones bound by and expected to obey laws.
Elected officials and government employees at all levels of government are also bound by
and should be expected to obey certain laws.
As long as Sheriff Mattis is the high-sheriff of Big Horn County, he seems determined to
make sure private citizens and government officials alike act within the law and their
Sheriff Mattis came across as a soft-spoken, polite man whose only interest is protecting
the citizens he was elected to serve. That being the case, he might be the sheriff for as
long as he wants to be.
Sheriff Mattis is hopeful that other sheriffs will assume the same stance.
c. 1997 The Knoxville Journal