Sheriff – usually an elected office, duties include custodian of the county jail, executes civil and criminal process, and carries out judicial mandates within the county

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[Middle English shire reeve from Anglo-Saxon scirgerefa] (bef. 12c)

l. A county’s chief peace officer, usually elected, who in most jurisdictions acts as custodian of the county jail, executes civil and criminal process, and carries out judicial mandates within the county. [1]

1. The chief law enforcement officer of a county. A sheriff’s responsibilities include keeping the peace in the county and serving and enforcing process, both civil and criminal, issued by courts throughout the county and the state. [2]

2. Scots law. The chief judge at the county level, with limited criminal and unlimited civil jurisdiction.  *  A sheriff may not hear cases of murder or of some minor offenses. In medieval times, the sheriff was the king’s representative in the shires, having military, administrative, and judicial functions.  The office Was hereditary until the Heritable jurisdictions Act of 1746.

3. The representative of the king or queen in a county ‘of England or Wales, having mostly ceremonial duties. — aka (in sense 3) high sheriff; vice-comes.

posse comitatus – a group of citizens summoned by a sheriff or other peace officer to assist him in maintaining order or making an arrest. — Often shortened to posse.

n. (16c)

1. Archaic. A sheriff.

n. (16c)

1. The office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff. — also spelled shrivalty— aka sheriffalty.

sheriff clerk:

1. Scots law. The clerk of a sheriff’s court.

sheriff’s court:

1. Scots Law. The principal inferior court in Scotland, having both civil and criminal jurisdiction. 


1. Hist. Scots law. The qualified judge of a district or county, acting for the titular, unqualified sheriff.

n. (14c)

1. The territory or district under a sheriff’s jurisdiction.

sheriff principal:

1. Scots law. The chief judge of a sheriffdom comprising one or more counties.

sheriff’s jury:

1. Hist. A jury selected and summoned by a sheriff to hold inquests for various purposes, such as assessing damages in an action in which the defendant makes no defense or ascertaining the mental condition of an alleged lunatic.

sheriff’s sale:

1. See execution sale.

2. See judicial sale.

sheriff’s town:
(18c) Hist. English law.

1. The great court-leet of the county held twice yearly by the sheriff.  See (32111:: LEET. — aka sheriff’s rotation. [1]


(bef. 12c)
Hist. English law.

1. A ministerial officer of high rank having local jurisdiction; the chief magistrate of a hundred.  *  The reeve executed process, kept the peace, and enforced the law by holding court within the hundred}. 

2. A minor officer serving the Crown at the hundred level; a bailiff or deputy-sheriff.

3. An overseer of a manor, parish, or the like. — Also spelled reve. — aka greve. [1]

     Excerpt from Max Radin’s Handbook of Anglo-American Legal History (1936):

     “All the freeholders, unless relieved by Special exemption, “owed suit’ at the hundred-moot, and the reeve of the hundred presided over it.‘ In‘ Anglo-Saxon times, the reeve was an independent official, and the hundred~moot was not a preliminary stage to the shire-moot at all. . . . But after the Conquest the hundred assembly, now called a court as all the others were, lost its importance very quickly. Pleas of land were taken from it,‘ and its criminal jurisdiction limited to one of holding suspects in temporary detention. The reeve of the hundred became the deputy of the sheriff, and the chief purpose of holding the hundred court was to enable the sheriff to hold his tourn and to permit a ‘view of frankpledge,” i.e., an inspection of the person who ought to belong to the frankpledge system. [3]

r borough reeve. (bef. 12c) Hist. English law. In England, the head of an unincorporated municipality.

r landreeve. See LANDREEVE.

> shire-reeve. (15c) English law. The reeve of a shire. or county. O The shire-reeve was a forerunner of the

sheriff. –Also spelled shire-reve. —Also termed shiregerefa. See SHIRE.

shire. (bef. 12c) A county in the United Kingdom (esp. Englend), originally made up of many hundreds but later conmstlng of larger divisions set off by metes and bounds.

Iandreeve. (1842) Hist. A person charged with (1) overseeing certain parts of a farm or estate, (2) attending to the timber, fences, gates, buildings, priVate roads, and

watercourses, (3) stocking the commons, (4) watching

for encroachments of all kinds, (5) preventing and‘detecting waste and spoliation by tenants and others, and (6)

reporting on iindings to the manager or land steward.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Max Radin, Handbook of Anglo-American Legal History 174-75 (1936).


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