UPDATED: Oral Arguments in Sheriff Christopher's Lawsuit Against State, Sussex County Presented In Court

Mar 08, 2013 -- 4:35am

UPDATED BY ANDREW KOCH: Attorneys for the state of Delaware, Sussex County and Sheriff Jeff Christopher presented their oral arguments in Sussex County Superior Court today for Sheriff Christopher's lawsuit against the state and the county. Attorneys for both sides cited past decisions in cases in other state and federal courts to support their arguments. However, Christopher's attorneys argued that there's plenty of evidence to support their case, and very little, if any, to support the state and Sussex County's case.

Christopher's attorneys argued that the Sheriff's office, as a "conservator of the peace," does have arrest and other police powers, and those powers are protected by the Delaware Constitution, meaing they can't be changed by the General Assembly. The attorneys for the state and Sussex County argued that the Sheriff's Office doesn't have police powers because those powers aren't stated in the Constitution. They argued that the office simply carries out court judgements and processes, and even though the position is elected by the people, still has to answer to the county because the county provides funding, supplies and the office.

Judge T. Henley Graves said that cases from other states won't be helpful in Delaware. He said he'd issue a decision by the end of this month.


Last summer, Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 325 into law stating that Sheriff's Offices in Delaware do NOT have police or arrest powers.

Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher responded by filing a lawsuit against the state. He's seeking a clarification from the state Supreme Court about the definition of "conservator of the peace."

Today at 1 o’clock, Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves will hear opening arguments in the case in Georgetown.

WGMD News will be in the courtroom for the trial and will have details as they become available.


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