County


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County

A political subdivision of a state, the power and importance of which varies from one state to another.

A county is distinguishable from a city or Municipal Corporation, since a municipal corporation has a dual character, both public and private, while a county is established by the state and is considered to be an agency thereof. Through home rule, a municipality may make certain decisions on matters of local concern, while a county is controlled by the state and does the work of state administration.

In the state of Louisiana, a state political subdivision is known as a parish. Comparable to counties, parishes have no independent existence apart from the state but possess only such authority as the state grants them.

Status

The state constitution determines the procedures for the formation of a county. Certain states require a specific minimum size population or property value before a county is created. A county government that is too small can be either completely abolished or subject to a consolidation plan designed to merge urban and rural areas. Conversely, a county that becomes too large or diverse following an extended period of development can be divided by the state to form a new county.

The principle of Sovereign Immunity permits states to refuse to allow anyone to sue them. This doctrine protects counties from legal action to the same extent that the states they exist in are so protected. States and counties can only be sued where state law specifically permits it.

Boundaries

Ordinarily, the boundaries of a county are set by the state legislature. If a boundary is marked by a stream or river, the county extends to the center and remains there from the time of the county's creation, even if the stream subsequently changes course. When a lake is the boundary, the county line ordinarily extends to the bank or the low water mark. A boundary that is on the ocean extends to the three-mile limit offshore.

State law provides for the revision of the boundaries of counties. Certain state statutes proscribe the creation of a new county line too close to an already existing county seat. Ordinarily voters can petition for the expansion or division of a county where population and commercial growth justify it. Although citizens have no absolute right to prevent the alteration of county lines by state legislatures, the legislature cannot change boundaries for the purpose of diluting the voting power of some of the citizens in an election.

The state retains power to designate special districts for purposes of irrigation, flood control, fire protection, or library services, which do not affect the makeup of existing counties.

Government

The government of a county is located at the county seat, a city or town where court sessions are held and duties are performed by county officers. The county board, comprised of public officials who are elected or appointed to serve on it, is the body that manages the government of the county. Other county officials include sheriffs, clerks, surveyors, and commissioners responsible for certain areas such as highways and Human Rights.

The state gives counties express authority to purchase and sell property and to raise funds from taxes, licenses, or bond issues. Counties have state-granted authority to make provisions for public health, safety, welfare, and morals of its residents through the enactment and enforcement of ordinances and regulations. The state, however, has the authority to make the decision whether to create courts on the county level or to use counties to designate intrastate judicial districts.

See: province, region, venue

COUNTY. A district into which a state is divided.
     2. The United States are generally divided into counties; counties are divided into townships or towns.
     3. In Pennsylvania the division of the province into three Counties, viz. Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester, was one of the earliest acts of William Penn, the original proprietary. There is no printed record of this division, or of the original boundaries of these counties. Proud says it was made about the year 1682. Proud's Hist. vol. 1 p. 234 vol. 2, p. 258.
     4. In some states, as Illinois; 1 Breese, R. 115; a county is considered as a corporation, in others it is only a quasi corporation. 16 Mass. R. 87; 2 Mass. R. 644 7 Mass. R. 461; 1 Greenl. R. 125; 3 Greenl. R. 131; 9 Greenl. R. 88; 8 John. R. 385; 3 Munf. R. 102. Frequent difficulties arise on the division of a county. On this subject, see 16 Mass. R. 86 6 J. J. Marsh. 147; 4 Halst. R. 357; 5 Watts, R. 87 1 Cowen, R. 550; 6 Cowen, R. 642; Cowen, R. 640; 4 Yeates, R. 399 10 Mass. Rep. 290; 11 Mass. Rep. 339.
     5. In the English law this word signifies the same as shire, county being derived from the French and shire from the Saxon. Both these words signify a circuit or portion of the realm, into which the whole land is divided, for the better government thereof, and the more easy administration of justice. There is no part of England that is not within some county, and the shire-reve, (sheriff) originally a yearly officer, was the governor of the county. Four of the counties of England, viz. Lancaster, Chester, Durham and Ely, were called counties Palatine, which were jurisdictions of a peculiar nature, and held by, especial charter from the king. See stat. 27 H. VIII. c. 25.

References in classic literature ?
Years and years after their claim had passed out of the public memory, the Pyncheons were accustomed to consult the Colonel's ancient map, which had been projected while Waldo County was still an unbroken wilderness.
Dorothea comforted Sancho, telling him that she pledged herself, as soon as it should appear certain that his master had decapitated the giant, and she found herself peacefully established in her kingdom, to bestow upon him the best county there was in it.
It is a singular feature in American life that at the beginning of this century, when the proprietor of the estate had occasion for settlers on a new settlement and in a remote county, he was enabled to draw them from among the increase of the former colony.
Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family, in the usual terms; how it had been first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale, serving the office of high sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II, with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome duodecimo pages, and concluding with the arms and motto:--"Principal seat, Kellynch Hall, in the county of Somerset," and Sir Walter's handwriting again in this finale:--
There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre.
To be brief, then, Eustace Macallan was "indicted and accused, at the instance of David Mintlaw, Esquire, Her Majesty's Advocate, for Her Majesty's interest," of the Murder of his Wife by poison, at his residence called Gleninch, in the county of Mid-Lothian.
IN the spring of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight there lived, in a certain county of North Britain, two venerable White Owls.
Corpus Christi, in the county of Nueces, and all the cities situated on the Rio Bravo, Laredo, Comalites, San Ignacio on the Web, Rio Grande City on the Starr, Edinburgh in the Hidalgo, Santa Rita, Elpanda, Brownsville in the Cameron, formed an imposing league against the pretensions of Florida.
From the former of these, he derived an agreeable person, a sound constitution, a solid understanding, and a benevolent heart; by the latter, he was decreed to the inheritance of one of the largest estates in the county.
However, it is time for us to get from the general to the particular; so, leaving the great army of Browns, who are scattered over the whole empire on which the sun never sets, and whose general diffusion I take to be the chief cause of that empire's stability; let us at once fix our attention upon the small nest of Browns in which our hero was hatched, and which dwelt in that portion of the royal county of Berks which is called the Vale of White Horse.
I must help him out of the county at whatever risk; but in the case of James, he was of a different mind.
Sir Giles Wapshot's family were insulted that one of the Wapshot girls had not the preference in the marriage, and the remaining baronets of the county were indignant at their comrade's misalliance.