The following is a letter that was emailed along with an 8-page position paper, to select members of the Tennessee General Assembly and County Government officials on April 2, 2020. Please take the time to read this letter and the proposition that follows it.
Dear Select Members of the General Assembly,
I am writing first to David Hawk and Jeremy Faison, who are state representatives for Greene County, where I live. As one of their constituents, I am asking them to honor their Constitutional oath by rising up to support and defend the unalienable rights of Tennessee citizens against governmental over-reach.
I have also decided that I should include the Lt. Gov and Speaker of the House in this email. After thinking about it more, I decided also that it wouldn’t hurt to also include a copy of this email to those members of the General Assembly who are known to be conservative and constitutionally-minded. So, if you are included on this email, you may consider that I have very positive feelings about you because of your track record in standing for principles of limited government. I hope that I am not wrong about any of you, but time will tell!
I regret that circumstances have arisen which require this action on my part. For the last several weeks, due to the Coronavirus contagion, we have had the President, our Tennessee Governor, and a large number of county/city mayors who have claimed authority to close businesses and/or to order residents to stay home. Since, to my knowledge, there has been no enforcement of these orders, I have waited to see what would happen.
Unfortunately, just earlier today, I learned that Governor Bill Lee has now amended his Executive Order to purport to make it mandatory that certain people stay home. [Some mayors had already made similar statements within the last few days, even threatening the arrest of non-compliant citizens, but since it wasn’t in my county, I let it go.] For me, though, this action by the governor was the last straw.
So, in response to this recent action by the governor, I have decided that I must respond to his usurpation by penning a position paper. Regrettably, I have had to put this paper together hurriedly, but nevertheless, I think it is sound in logic and reasoning.
To summarize, the paper articulates my view that NO government official at ANY level has the
authority to control the general public in the manner claimed. I trust that you will thoughtfully
read the attached 8-page paper to see if, in fact, you believe that the people have indeed
delegated to the respective governments the authority which the respective governments claim to have.
In the paper, I specifically address the “Emergency Management Powers” statute under which
our governor is currently acting, and I assert that said statute, in its current form, is blatantly
unconstitutional. For your ease of reference, I have cited a small but relevant portion of the
statute in my paper.
One last thing that I need to say: Executive Orders are not called Executive Orders because they
come from an Executive. They are called Executive Orders because they control conduct only
within the Executive Department of government. No executive, at any level, has the authority to
make law, to make rules of general application to the public, or to make regulations of general
application to the general public. Any such action would violate the principle of “separation of
powers.” My attached paper will explain this in more detail.
It then remains a question as to whether the General Assembly can, in advance, pass a law
pertaining to emergencies that will bring about interference with the unalienable rights of the
citizen to travel, work, shop, worship, etc. It is my position that even the General Assembly
cannot pass such a law without first amending the Tennessee Constitution. Just read the paper
and you’ll see why I take the position that I take.
For those who want to claim Constitutional authority to pass such laws, unfortunately, their
claim is just another example of officials who expand the meaning of the Constitution without
any textual support to make the expansion, and I have found that when officials take the
unwarranted power of expanding the meaning, it is almost always used AGAINST the liberties
of the citizen. We need to be reminded that the text says what the text says, and it means now
what it meant when enacted. If we want the text to change, we need to amend the Constitution,
not ignore it or expand its meaning.
Therefore, I can assure you that any action by state or local officials to try to civilly or criminally
enforce these baseless Executive Orders will be met with much resistance, and perhaps even
legal action, depending on the severity of the unconstitutional action.
Finally, for the record, I am not one to seek the spotlight. I do not wish to receive credit for
anything I have written. This is not about me; it is about sound principles of law. Therefore, you
have my permission to use excerpts, or the document as a whole, in any fashion that you see
fit. Forward it to anyone you choose. There is no need to credit me with anything; however, I
do ask that if you quote any portion of the paper, that you quote it accurately and in proper
If you feel the need to respond, please do so. Quite frankly, I have many other pressing things to
do besides dealing with issues like this, so don’t feel obligated to respond to me in any
fashion. However, I do hope that you will feel the duty to respond to the Governor’s office and
perhaps to the Attorney General. As for me, I intend to circulate this paper around to our local
government officials in order to warn them of the fact that our mayor is usurping authority not
properly given to him.
And, I suppose I should also say that if you think I have mis-analyzed, or if I am otherwise
wrong in my understanding, then please, do contact me so that I can consider your viewpoint or
perhaps reflect on something that I have missed. I want to take a principled approach to
everything I do.
Remember, if we are not principled in the small things, then we will also likely not be principled
in the large things. It is the measure of a man when he stands up for the rights of every person in
the face of opposition. I trust that each of you will have the discipline to limit governmental
power to its proper Constitutional limits, even if you think that the power is being used for a
“When treading upon a citizen’s constitutional rights, it is no defense to philosophize that ‘it is
for their own good.’ ” – Jeff Cobble
Jeffrey A. Cobble
COBBLE LAW FIRM
1315 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy.,
Greeneville, TN 37745