Prevent Federal Overreach by Empowering the States

Our federal government is out of control. That fact is no longer even debatable. Numerous groups are looking for ways to remedy that situation before it’s too late. One such group is the Convention of States movement. They’re working to bring our government to heal by using Article V of the Constitution to implement amendments for:

  • Fiscal accountability
  • Term limits
  • Constraints on government overreach

There are numerous straightforward ideas to achieve fiscal accountability and term limits. However, that “constraining government overreach” one is tricky. What is overreach? How can it be prevented in a legally enforceable way? I have a modest proposal.

There is no greater form of government overreach than federal officials, using the power of their offices to violate our Constitutionally protected rights. Fortunately, there’s already a statute that criminalizes such actions. Its title is: MISCONDUCT BY LAW ENFORCEMENT & OTHER GOVERNMENT ACTORS — Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law (18 U.S.C. § 242). I’ll refer to it as the “color of law” statute for brevity. It reads:

This provision makes it a crime for someone acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

The “color of law” statute imposes sentences, up to and including life imprisonment or death, depending on the severity of the infraction. Violations of a person’s rights is serious business – as it should be.

The statute has been used many times in the past – particularly in the prosecution of misbehaving local police officers. Officers prosecuted using the law include those involved in the cases of:

But the law isn’t working when it comes to federal agents – particularly the FBI. The last 14 years has treated us to a parade of civil rights violations by federal officials.

Our freedom of speech was violated when the IRS targeted conservative advocacy groups at the direction of Lois Lerner. The FBI kicked it up a notch when it assigned agents to work with Twitter to censor inconvenient opinions about the 2020 election and COVID protocols.

Our right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated when the FBI obtained travel information from Bank of America – not to investigate a crime – but to look for one. In another case, the FBI fabricated evidence to obtain a FISA warrant against Trump campaign official Carter Page – attempting to undermine the peaceful transition of power.

Our right to freedom of religion was attacked when the FBI placed assets in the Catholic church, looking for pro-life domestic terrorists, when no crime had even been committed.

Freedom of the press was disregarded when the FBI raided the homes of Project Veritas reporters, in search of Ashley Biden’s diary. Ashley hadn’t even admitted that the diary was hers, there was no evidence that it was stolen, and Project Veritas had even offered to give it to the FBI. They chose to use an armed raid instead.

Yet none of the officials involved in these violations have faced charges with the “color of law” statute. Why is that? It’s because the authority to prosecute violations of the statute is granted to the DOJ, and the investigation of infractions is the sole domain of the FBI (28 U.S.C § 533). For the law to work at the federal level, agents who investigated parents for protesting at school boards, would only face prosecution if the guy (Merrick Garland) who sent them to do it, decided to prosecute them. That’s the conundrum. Enforcement at the federal level is in the hands of the worst offenders.

But we can fix it without implementing any new laws. Let’s just make the existing law work for us by empowering the states to enforce it. Through either statutory revision, or by Constitutional amendment, grant state attorneys general the authority to enforce the “color of law” statute. Give them the ability to convene grand juries, task investigators, and prosecute infractions.

As long as we’re making a few minor changes, let’s include a clarification that shouldn’t be necessary – but sadly will be. Explicitly state that violation of Constitutionally protected rights is outside the authorities granted with any federal job. Employees who violate such laws are not acting in accordance with their job duties, but rather as rogue operators. As such they will be responsible for their own legal defense and any resulting penalties.

There are a number advantages to empowering states to oversee the federal government. It will provide accountability to federal law enforcement by unbiased, duly elected, law enforcement officials working for the public interest. It’s another check and balance.

Empowering the states to enforce the “color of law” statute will also move trials to various “non-swampy” jurisdictions. If an FBI agent works with Twitter to silence a hypothetical Missouri blogger’s opinion about the 2020 election, that agent will face a jury of his peers in Jefferson City, Missouri – not Washington, DC.

The provision will also work retroactively. You can’t try someone for something that wasn’t illegal when they committed the act. But the “color of law” statute has been the law of the land since the 19th century. There would be nothing new about the law – only the method of enforcement. When the FBI placed spies in the Catholic church trying to find or create a crime, they broke the law. Even though Herr Garland would never prosecute, this provision would allow some other law enforcement official in the future to hold the agents accountable. Do you think that might cause a few past bad actors to loose some sleep?

The howling from the feds will be epic. They’ll claim that they won’t be able to prosecute actual criminals for fear of malicious prosecutions. Poppy cock. They won’t be inhibited anymore than local police already are. Federal officials will have the same protections that our local police officers have:

  • Legal oversight by elected officials – who haven’t the time for nuisance or unwinnable cases
  • Protection from unreasonable indictment – by a grand jury of disinterested civilians
  • Article III assurance of a fair trial – by an impartial judge
  • A right to defend themselves before a jury of their peers – in someplace like Wichita, KS

My answer to their howling is that they brought this on themselves. Their nonchalance regarding our rights and their oath requires a corrective action. If that correction is somewhat unpleasant: so, be it. Welcome to the world of accountability.

The next president should also issue an executive order to make it clear to members of the executive branch that this extra bit of oversight is serious. Upon completing their oath of office, federal officials should be required to sign their first affidavit as a condition of employment. It should affirm that:

  • They have read and understand the Constitution
  • They have read and understand 18 U.S.C. § 242
  • They understand that this acknowledgement may be used in a court of law

If they decide to color outside the lines, there won’t be any “I didn’t know it was illegal” defense.

This article appeared previously on American Thinker.

Author Bio: John Green is a political refugee from Minnesota, now residing in Idaho. He has written for American Thinker, and American Free News Network. He can be followed on Facebook or reached at

If you enjoyed this article, then please REPOST or SHARE with others; encourage them to follow AFNN. If you’d like to become a citizen contributor for AFNN, contact us at

  Truth Social:

7 thoughts on “Prevent Federal Overreach by Empowering the States”

  1. I agree. I have said for many years that our last line of defense against an increasingly tyrranical, overreaching, and unconstitutional federal establishment is state governors. This is one reason I, as a Florida resident, would prefer that Ron DeSantis refrains from running for President this election. We need 27+ state governments and legislatures to hold the feds accountable and act as a foil to their overreach. The good thing about a states’ convention is that such and event is focused on a single issue and doesn’t open up the entire Consitution to being rewrittend. We don’t need it to be rewritten, we just need it to be reread. In particular, we need to drastically strengthen enforcement of the 10th Ammendment, which I think makes much of what the feds to unconstitutional.

  2. Be careful about term limits, however. As a military person, I watched a lot of GS bureaucrats slow roll and wait out the terms of military leaders in a variety of positions. Term limits on the semi-accountable politicians of necessity transfers power to the unaccountable swamp creatures. You have to find a way to limit the power of staffers and career bureaucrats. To me that means first providing low pay and no benefits to staffers to encourage them to come to the global epicenter of stupid (DC) server their time for a few years and then get a real job. That also means cutting the size of the federal government to pre-WWI levels.

    • I agree completely. There is a great deal of discussion within the convention of states movement about what “term limits” should mean. There seems to be a growing opinion that it shouldn’t just be for politicians, but also for judges and bureaucrats. For example: an amendment could be written that imposes term limits on anyone in the bureaucracy that occupies a policy influencing position — such as Fauci.

  3. That color of law statute is what empowers political parties to weaponize agencies. The history of one party turning its back on certain activities and not prosecuting violations is a key that allows them to repeatedly violate our rights. Instead, they use it as a tool to prosecute those who refuse to bow to the tyranny. It would be a great idea to make that a statute that a state can use to keep federal agency weaponization from happening.
    Our federal government literally gets away with murder. It gets away with using one political group against another, never for any good reason, much less legally. Now, we have a situation where we may never see another fair election, and partially because of the effects of the law you mentioned. If anyone thinks for a minute that there is not some kind of government interest in settling elections by fraud or blunt control, they are mistaken.
    We are only one step away from the grip of totalitarian control, in our country.

Leave a Comment