Trend Watch

Sessions: Sheriffs Part of 'Anglo-American' Heritage

In legal use, it evokes 'common-law'

Anglo-American spiked on February 12, 2018, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the term in a speech addressing the National Sheriffs' Association.

Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people's protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process. The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.

In a legal context, Anglo-American is used as an adjective meaning “reflecting the combined traditions of English and American jurisprudence,” and is frequently used in legal writing, since English common law is the basis of the laws of the United States (except for Louisiana, which has laws based on the Napoleonic Code of France). Indeed, sheriffs existed in England prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066. The term is even sometimes used in Supreme Court decisions.

When used as a noun, Anglo-American means “an American whose family comes originally from England” or, more broadly, “a North American whose native language is English and especially whose culture or ethnic background is of European origin.”

Sheriff comes from combining the Old English roots of shire (“county”) and reeve (“medieval English manor officer”), so it literally means “officer of the shire.”

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