COMMENTARY: Constables Retake Oath Of Office
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.