Bench Memos

Re: ABC Steps In It

On Saturday I blogged below about the ABC show “Commander in Chief” sending federal marshals into allegedly crime-ravaged Prince George’s County, Maryland to bring order out of the chaos.  I pointed out that a president doesn’t really have the authority to usurp local law enforcement functions in this way.  (Turns out the show has now been dropped from ABC’s line-up, thanks to bad ratings.)

An observant friend in a high place writes to notify me that on the very day that ABC aired the episode, the attorney general of the United States appeared publicly to celebrate a joint federal-state-local effort that, for the second year in a row, had dedicated a week to rounding up fugitives wanted on outstanding warrants issued by all levels of authority in the American criminal justice system.  This program, in which the U.S. marshals take a leading role, looks like a model for cooperative policing across jurisdictional boundaries.  It does not, of course, mean that those jurisdictional boundaries are not very real.  And I suspect that they were paid no heed at all in ABC’s late, unlamented fictional presidency.

Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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