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 ?
Albans to relieve the congestion of the home counties.
We have touched on three English counties in our short drive, starting in Middlesex, passing over an angle of Surrey, and ending in Kent.
Later, and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense--that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white.
With few exceptions, I found that the crops were mortgaged in the counties where I went, and that the most of the coloured farmers were in debt.
Here, right up on the highest point, from which they say you can see eleven counties, they trenched round all the table-land, some twelve or fourteen acres, as was their custom, for they couldn't bear anybody to overlook them, and made their eyrie.
Meetings have been held in different counties of Wisconsin, denouncing THE PRACTICE OF SECRETLY BEARING ARMS IN THE LEGISLATIVE CHAMBERS OF THE COUNTRY.
Sonenshein said California is behind the East Coast, where a number of counties have elected executives.
If this is the year Democrats break an almost three-decade-long losing streak and win the Illinois governor's mansion, the changing political and racial landscape in the five counties that surround Chicago and Cook County might be the key.
To reduce the distance between farm and government, they proposed to create a new county, literally to form a Union County that would unite neighborhoods from eastern Mecklenburg and western Anson counties.
The levels of sales in both counties remain constant, despite the decline in REIT activity, noted Leeds.
This article presents a geographic model that can be used with a geographic information system (GIS) to assess whether a county has a lower number of animals submitted for rabies testing than surrounding counties.
Among rural areas, growth in farming-dependent counties and persistent poverty counties was hindered by their remoteness from major metro areas.