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generalize with regard to the county board, it seems best to give a single concrete illustration by exhibiting the organization and powers of the board in New York. The board of supervisors is composed of one supervisor from each town in the county and one supervisor for each ward in each city within the county, excepting in some counties wholly included within cities. The members meet annually and in special sessions at the call of the clerk, on the written request of a majority; and whenever required by law for the performance of some particular function. A majority of the board constitute a quorum; they elect a chairman; their meetings are public and they make rules governing their procedure. Penalties are imposed upon members for the neglect of duty.

The general powers of the board are as follows. They have the care and custody of the corporate property of the county; they audit all accounts and charges against the county, and direct annually the raising of money to defray them in full; they order the levy of the taxes for each town; they assess, levy, and collect any other taxes required by the law of the state; they fix the salaries and compensation of county treasurers, district attorneys, and superintendents of the poor; they erect county buildings and borrow money therefor whenever necessary; they may, on application of twenty-five resident taxpayers and when satisfied that it is for the best interest of the county, lay out, open, alter, or discontinue a county highway or cause the same to be done, and construct, repair, or abandon a county bridge when they may deem the authority conferred upon the state highway commissioners insufficient; they constitute the board of canvassers for elections in the county, except in the counties embraced in New York City. In addition to these important powers, the board has a multitude of minor duties which cannot be enumerated here.

The powers conferred upon the county board by the state constitution or by legislation are usually enumerated or at best very narrowly confined. This results in the necessity of going to the state legislature for innumerable special acts at every session; it destroys “home rule," and helps to introduce confusion into state legislative business. The new Michigan constitution of 1908 continued an old provision authorizing the legislature to

1 See above, p. 530.

confer legislative powers on the county boards of supervisors, and by recent enactment the board has been given power “to pass such laws, regulations, and ordinances relating to purely county affairs as they may see fit, but which shall not be opposed to the general laws of the state and shall not interfere with the local affairs of any township, incorporated city, or village within the limits of such county.” Laws passed by the board under this act may be vetoed by the governor, to whom they must be submitted, but they may be repassed over his veto by a two-thirds vote. This should have a salutary effect upon reducing the pressure for special laws in the Michigan legislature.

The county board is always supplemented by a series of public officials varying in number and in the distribution of powers from state to state; but the two leading groups of such offices — those connected with justice and police and with finance — are of course always present, owing to the fact that these functions, to a greater or less extent, everywhere form a part of county administration. These offices, or at least the duties attached to them, are generally determined by the state legislature under very slight constitutional control, and each incumbent is usually independent in the discharge of his duties, being subject only in a few instances to supervision by the county board or by the state administrative authorities. It is the common rule also to have these offices elective, but there are a number of exceptions, especially in the matter of judicial officers in the eastern and southern states.

The practice of having a separate judge and court for each county obtains in only about one-third of the states, while some other states have separate courts for the more populous counties. The more common rule is to group counties into judicial districts and have one judge go on circuit from county to county, holding stated sessions of court.? In nearly three-fourths of the states all judges, district and county, are selected by popular vote for varying terms often six to twelve years. In other states they are selected by the governor in conjunction with a council, the senate, or, as in Connecticut, the entire legislature. In Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, they are chosen by the legislature. Sometimes there is associated with the county judge a special officer, usually known as the probate judge, who

1 Professor Fairlie, in the American Political Science Review, for February, 1910, p. 122.

* See above, p. 548.

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is charged with the settlement of estates. In New York there is a county judge elected for a term of six years, and in a majority of counties there is a surrogate or probate judge, also elected for six years.?

The jurisdiction of the county court, that is, the range of matters which may come before county court judges, of course, varies greatly from state to state. In a few states, the county court has no judicial functions at all, but is merely an administrative organ; in two states, Kentucky and Tennessee, it possesses both judicial and administrative functions; and in some others the duties of a county court are confined to probate business. The county court of New York has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving not more than $2000, and over all criminal cases, with the single exception of murder.

Next in importance to the judicial officers of the county is the prosecuting attorney, known in New York as the district attorney and in some other states as the county attorney. He is generally an elective officer and is charged with the institution and conduct of criminal prosecutions and with representing the county in civil suits. He usually has the power of appointing assistant prosecuting attorneys for the various localities within the county. Sometimes he derives his salary from fees a device which furnishes an incentive to activity; but it is discarded by many states in favor of a fixed salary because it may encourage useless prosecutions. In New York the district attorney for each county, with a few exceptions, is elected for a term of three years; and it is his duty to conduct all prosecutions for crimes and offences committed within his county, except when the trial of an indictment is removed from his jurisdiction, in which case he must assist the neighboring district attorney in the trial of the case if requested.

The chief business of the prosecuting attorney is, of course, the enforcement of the law against criminals of every kind — from the petty thief to the murderer or the defaulting or dishonest public officer. Clearly, therefore, the good order of the commu

1 There are exceptions for counties containing, or embraced by, cities.

? There is always attached to the county court a clerk who keeps the judicial records and sometimes has miscellaneous functions in addition; see above, p. 549.

3 This latter term is applied in some states (including New York) to an attorney appointed to represent the poor in courts.

nity and the efficiency of the government depend in a large measure upon the character of the prosecuting attorney; and it is small wonder that heated political contests are sometimes waged in the selection of the man to fill this position. There is nothing so important to a corrupt county or city political machine as the office of the prosecuting attorney, for it is practically within his power to decide whether corruption and malfeasance shall exist in the various departments or not.' Effective work as prosecutor has brought many men into great prominence, especially in recent years when municipal scandals have been so widespread. Mr. Deneen's services as prosecutor in Chicago opened the way to the office of governor for him, and Mr. Folk's vigorous search for criminals in St. Louis helped to make him governor of that state. The dramatic career of Mr. Heney in San Francisco is so recent a matter that it need not be mentioned here. The prosecuting attorney, however, does not have sole control

, over the institution of criminal proceedings, for in most states it is the grand jury that takes the preliminary steps in hearing evidence and bringing the indictments. The prosecutor has no legal power to force or prevent action on the part of the grand jury; but, as a matter of common practice, he determines what cases shall come before the grand jury, and his advice as to the proper line of action is generally taken.

The recognition of this fact and the discovery that the grand jury is a slow and unwieldy instrument for prosecution have led several states to abandon it altogether for ordinary cases and to authorize the institution of criminal trials on "information" presented by the prosecutor. There are, of course, grave dangers in substituting the will of a single official for the deliberate judgment of a group of citizens, and the constitution of Oklahoma, while permitting prosecution by information, provides that “no person shall be prosecuted for a felony by information without having had a preliminary examination before an examining magistrate, or having waived such preliminary examination.” ? The restriction of the use of the grand jury, furthermore, increases enormously the power of the prosecutor, happily if he uses it for good, disastrously if he is associated with the criminal elements.

1 See Goodnow, Principles of the Administrative Law of the United States, P. 416.

Readings, p. 87.


The executive officer of the county is the sheriff, who is elected by popular vote in every state except Rhode Island, where he is chosen by the legislature. The sheriff always has power to appoint one or more deputy sheriffs. The term is usually two years, but in some states, including New York,' it is three years, and in a few it extends to four years. The sheriff is paid either a fixed salary or by fees or by a combination of both ; and in New York county the income secured by the sheriff in a legitimate way sometimes amounts to $75,000 or more. The sheriff is custodian of the county jail; he is the county hangman; he summons witnesses, arrests indicted persons, sells the property of private persons for taxes or debt under judicial order, and executes the processes of the court.

The sheriff is also conservator of the peace in the county, that is, he may “upon view, without writ or process, commit to prison all persons who break the peace or attempt to break it; he may award process of the peace and bind any one in recognizance to keep it. He is bound, ex officio, to pursue and take all traitors, murderers, felons, and other misdoers and commit them to jail for safe custody. For this purpose he may command the posse comitatus, or power of the county; and his summons every one over the age of fifteen years is bound to obey." This power is of great significance in time of peace and of special importance in the case of disorders.

The sheriff is to a large extent the guardian of life and property. The zeal or laxity with which he takes precautionary measures will often determine the seriousness of a local disturbance; and

a there are many instances of sheriffs allowing their fears or sympathies to outweigh their strict obligations to execute the law. Indeed, in many of the unsettled communities, the contest over the election of sheriffs is waged with great vigor on account of its relation to the suppression of disorder. In serious disturbances, however, the governor of the state may take the police control temporarily out of the hands of the sheriff by declaring martial law and using state troops. He may do this, of course, at the request of a sheriff unable to maintain order with the ordinary resources at his command.

1 Exceptions for certain populous counties. 2 South o. Maryland, 18 Howard, 396, quoted in Fairlie, op. cit., p. 109. 3 See Readings, p. 449.

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