Re-Open Cal Now, Day 2: Sheriffs John D'Agostini and Scott Jones—Constitutionality of the Lockdown Orders and the Rule of Law

The necessary element of a “Police State” is cooperation from law enforcement to do just that: “enforce” the orders given, no matter how burdensome, unreasonable, and more importantly, unconstitutional.

Thankfully, there are Sheriffs in certain California Counties who take seriously their oath to the Constitution, the rule of law, and their commitment to serve the people over and above a Governor’s or unelected bureaucrat’s executive orders or restrictions.

Sheriff John D’Agostini is the elected law enforcement leader over El Dorado County, which encompasses Dorado Hills, Placerville, and South Lake Tahoe. Sheriff Scott Jones is the elected law enforcement leader of Sacramento County, which encompasses the State Capitol, Fair Oaks, and Folsom. Sadly, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, who was scheduled to be a part of the panel, was not able to attend.

This Day 2 panel discussion was moderated by former Sacramento County Sheriff and KFBK radio host John McGinnis. It was wide-ranging, from responses to Governor Newsom’s and Health Officials COVID restrictions, to prisoner release, to how a poisoned political point of view towards law enforcement affects public safety.

This second panel of the day starts at about 3 hours and 20 minutes into the three-panel day, and is well worth viewing in its entirety.

John McGinnis started with the COVID restrictions and both Sheriff’s approach to them.

Sheriff Jones presented his individual approach and his approach as an elected leader.

“As an individual, I, like you, have significant questions. In fact, I have more questions than answers, also like you. Significantly, what are we doing? I mean, if what we’re doing in California is not working, why are we just doubling down and simply doing more of it?”

Many nods of agreement accompanied this statement, and the constituent anger over imposing lockdowns that were not effective the first time around has been the fuel behind the increased momentum of the Gavin Newsom Recall efforts.

Sheriff Jones continued,

“Look, we’re all smart. Although, I don’t think the politicians really believe we are. I think they do things that maybe even they believe in. But they feel that they’re smarter than us, that we don’t have the wherewithal to make decisions that are the best for us.”

Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley confirmed this in the first morning panel, where they laid out Newsom’s legal arguments concerning the appeal of the Sutter County judge’s injunction against his Executive Orders. The Governor does not believe duly elected officials are smart enough to know how to serve and assist the people who elected them.

Go figure.

Sheriff Jones did not mince words concerning the handling of this pandemic by the executive branch.

“The reality is, if I have all these question and everybody has all these questions, our leaders are failing us, they are failing us. We shouldn’t have these questions[…] They need to give us these answers, and they are not doing so.”

Sheriff D’Agostini was equally critical of the response from the executive branch in California, and from the federal government.

“I’m a politician as well, so I get to say some of things I get to say, and the heck with it. If the government had come out at the very beginning of this and said, ‘Folks, these are the things we believe based on science and facts that you can use to protect yourselves and your community, and we’re asking you for help to get through this together.’

“They would have received a completely different response from the people of the United States of America, than they have by issuing Executive Orders and laws that I believe don’t have a basis in law.”

Sheriff D’Agostini delved into the law and history, and looked for any precedent for what was being demanded of him from the State and Federal government.

“That’s what we do, we follow the law. And everything that I could find in the law was very clear:

“The Sheriff may enforce such orders. These type of orders, the Sheriff “may” enforce. Not “shall”. It’s a huge difference between those two words.

“Case law has held with that belief, that the government can quarantine people who are suspected of being sick with a dangerous, communicable disease. Nowhere in case law, nowhere in history, nowhere, anywhere does it say that you can quarantine an entire population because… of whatever reason. You can quarantine people that you believe may be sick with a contagious, dangerous, disease. Period. it’s very simple.”

While Sheriff D’Agostini encouraged safety protocols within his County, there was no shutting down of businesses or draconian mask mandates and curfews.

Sheriff Jones laid out some of his individual questions on his Facebook page which I referenced in my video interview with him. However, concerning the safety and well-being of his officers and the community, he had a different basis for criteria:

“As a Sheriff, I have to make these decisions for our community. I don’t have the luxury of injecting my personal viewpoints into what is best for public safety. So, it’s really a different equation, it’s a different metric from which I make those decisions.”

Sheriff Jones had more complex questions about the Constitutionality of the restrictions:

“If we are to be used as an instrument, an armed instrument to enforce these restrictions that are coming, not from the Legislature who enacts laws that we do enforce, but from health officials, sometimes who are not even medical doctors, or certainly practicing medical doctors.

“From unelected bureaucrats that we’ve never heard of, that now are at the forefront of telling us what we can and can’t do; or elected officials who don’t really have anything to do, or care about constitutionality, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion. Look, we operate in areas of probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and these have questionable constitutionality to me.

“So do I want to put my officers in that position?

Then he laid out simpler questions that even a 6th grader could understand:

  • What amount of force is appropriate to enforce health orders?
  • If someone is resisting compliance to health orders, what sort of force is appropriate for us to use against that person?
  • Are we supposed to cite someone or release them if they are violating health orders or are we supposed to book them in jail?
  • What if we see a public official violating health orders? As we’ve seen on the news, are we supposed to issue a warrant for that public official?

People in the audience actually yelled, “Yes!” to the last question, then everyone dissolved in laughter and applause. Newsom’s French Laundry debacle looms large in our legend.

Sheriff Jones interjected,

“Well, you know what, it’s easy to say that, to be honest with you. But I am a big believer in equality across the board. If I’m not going to enforce it on our communities, I’m not going to enforce it on them.

It is doubtful that Governor Newsom or Dr. Mark Ghaly would even know how to answer these questions, let alone give a response. Newsom barely gives any concrete responses in his press conferences that nobody watches anymore.

Sheriff Jones concluded that until answers are given that satisfy constitutionality and allow a clear application of the rule of law,

“Until and unless they are, I’m not going to put my officers in that position. I don’t have the time or resources to be enforcing some of these orders anyway. That’s why I came out before the Governor came out with his latest round of restrictions, saying that the Sheriff’s office or its officers would not be used to enforce any of them.”

Sheriff D’Agostini concluded,

“The government has no authority to dictate to us who can survive and who can’t, and that’s what we are dealing with.”

Sheriff Jones put on his politician and public safety hat to emphasize the importance of maintaining the public trust, which is an essential component of law enforcement.

“When people call us, I want them to know that we are here to make their lives better, not make the situation worse. And these new restrictions will only make things worse.”