COMMENTARY: Constables Retake Oath Of Office
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Circuit Court Judge J. Mark Rogers, far right, administered the oath of office to, from left, Adams Melton, Forrest Pitcock, Kevin Duncan, Tom Ganoe and Jim Gibbs Thursday.
During the swearing in ceremony held last August 30th, the Cannon County constables were given the incorrect oath for the office to which they were elected. State law provides two oaths for the office of constable. One oath is for constables without law enforcement powers and the other for constables with law enforcement powers. Cannon County Constables are law enforcement officers with full powers of arrest.

Prior to the swearing in ceremony at the Cannon County Courthouse last August,  then sheriff-elect Darrell Young approached County Clerk Bobby Smith and instructed Bobby Smith to give the newly elected constables the oath of office provided for constables without law enforcement powers. The responsible person for providing the correct oath is County Clerk Bobby Smith. Unfortunately, County Clerk Smith complied with Young's request over protests from the elected constables.

According to T.C.A. § 8-10-108(a) constables without law enforcement powers take the following oath: I do solemnly swear that I will well and truly serve the state of Tennessee in the office of constable and that I will faithfully, and without delay, execute and return all lawful process directed to me, and that I will well and truly, according to my power and ability, do and execute all other duties of the office of constable. I do solemnly swear to support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States.

That non-law enforcement oath was the oath incorrectly administered to the Cannon County constables last August.

Constables with law enforcement powers such as Cannon County's constables take the following oath: I do solemnly swear that I will well and truly serve the state of Tennessee in the office of constable, will cause the peace of the state to be kept to the best of my power and that I will arrest all persons that go in my sight armed offensively or who commit any riot, affray, or other breach of the peace, and will use my best endeavor, on complaint made, to apprehend all felons, rioters, or persons riotously assembled; and if such persons flee or make resistance, I will pursue and make hue and cry, according to law; and that I will faithfully, and without delay, execute and return all lawful process directed to me, and that I will well and truly, according to my power and ability, do and execute all other duties of the office of constable. I do solemnly swear to support the constitutions of Tennessee and the United States.

While it is a misdemeanor crime to act without taking the required oath of office, it is uncertain if conspiring to cause an incorrect oath of office to be administered would be a crime. None the less, failing to follow the law regarding the required oath and the willful interference with the office of an elected official by other elected officials is something that should not be taken lightly. After months of insistence that the correct oath be given, the constables turned to County Executive Mike Gannon, who in turn requested a legal opinion from County Attorney Mike Corley who agreed with the constables that the incorrect oath had be administered last August.

The oath of office cannot be administered to constables by just anybody. The oath of office may be administered to the constables by any judge of the court of general sessions or other judicial officer of the constable's county. Circuit Court Judge J. Mark Rogers agreed to travel to Woodbury and administered the correct oath of office to all five of Cannon County's constables at the Cannon County Courthouse.

The Cannon County Constables sworn in by Judge Rogers are: Jim Gibbs,1st District, Tom Ganoe, 2nd District, Kevin Duncan, 3rd District, Forrest Pitcock, 4th District, and Adam Melton, 5th District.
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Members Opinions:
June 17, 2011 at 10:01am
I want to publically thank Judge J. Mark Rogers for taking his personal time to travel to Woodbury from the Tennessee Judicial Conference being held in Chattanooga just to administer the oath of office to the constables. Judge Rogers has been very compassionate toward the constables but more importantly a very fair member of the judiciary with a reputation of insisting the law of the people be followed.

Born in Woodbury, Judge Rogers is the son of the late C. D. and Lois Rogers, and a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee College of Law. Rogers maintained an active trial practice from 1977 until 2004 when he was appointed Circuit Judge by the Governor and then elected in 2006 by the voters of Cannon and Rutherford Counties.

In 2010, The Tennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates named Judge Rogers as the 2009 Trial Judge of the Year.

Personally, it was truly and honor to have Judge Rogers administer the oath of office to me as constable.

Jim Gibbs
June 17, 2011 at 9:47pm
OMG -- Only in Cannon County!!!
June 18, 2011 at 11:05am
So how long did it take the constables to bring up this matter after the oath of office was taken?
June 18, 2011 at 11:12pm
To: keithready: Actually, the incorrect oath was contested August 30th, 2010 prior to the oath even being administered. Our protest to Bobby Smith fell on deaf ears and it took approximately 10 months of insistence to get it done correctly. Along the way I discovered a book titled “I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR” which examines what is good and right in law and why officials must care. It is an overview of official duties, from oaths to the law itself, explains how morals and law work together to create freedom and justice. The book explains how American law ought to work. -- It took awhile, but it worked this week in Cannon County.

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