Today on CNN's American Morning, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart was interviewed by anchor John Roberts. Dart has announced his office will quit carrying out evictions stemming from mortgage foreclosures until lenders start exercising "due diligence." During the interview, Dart made the point that some evictions involve people who have not defaulted on their mortgages, but have simply been paying rent to landlords who did. Roberts's comments at the end of the interview are telling:
ROBERTS: So the Illinois Bankers Association is accusing you of "vigilantism" and, quote, "at the highest level of an elected official." What do you say to that?
DART: I think the outrage is on my part with them. That they would so cavalierly issue documents and have me throw people out of homes who have done absolutely nothing wrong. They played by all the rules. And because of their ignorance and their lack of diligence and going out to their own property and finding out who is out there, innocent people are being set out.
I told them, you send an agent out, you send somebody out that gives me any type of assurance that the appropriate person is in the house, I will fulfill the order. But when you're just blindly sending me out to houses where I'm coming across innocent tenant after innocent tenant, I can't keep doing this right now and have a good conscience about it.
ROBERTS: There were some suggestions that they may seek to hold you in contempt of court for ignoring court orders. Are you willing to go that far?
DART: I am. Because as I say, my oath of office was to try to do what is just for the people in this county. And there is no justice being done when you have people who play by the rules, who are innocent, having no notice of court hearings and having all of their possessions put out on the street, their family humiliated, their children's lives being traumatized. And that's exactly what I see when I go out on these evictions.
ROBERTS: You know, you've got to remain impartial in all of this, Sheriff. But I could say it's good to meet one of the good guys once in a while.
So Dart is deemed one of the good guys by Roberts. Is that because he refuses to do his job? Because he ignores court orders? Because he's decided which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he doesn't? Because he's setting an incredibly bad example by breaking the laws he's sworn to uphold?
Some of the people Dart is attempting to protect from eviction are no doubt innocent. They are in distress through no fault of their own. At the same time, however, it's necessary to keep in mind that remedies for such inequities need to come from those who enact laws, not from those charged with enforcement. Sheriffs aren't elected to pick and choose which laws they want to carry out.
Dart, naturally, is a member in good standing of the Cook County Democratic Party. So it's not surprising that he thinks laws apply to others, not to him. Roberts's expression of support for Dart and his dereliction of duty, which likely will lead to fewer mortgage loans in Chicago and surrounding areas, suggests that's the way he also views the world.