Sher"iff, n. [OE. shereve, AS. scir-gerfa; scir a shire + gerfa a reeve. See Shire, and Reeve, and cf. Shrievalty.]
The chief officer of a shire or county, to whom is intrusted the execution of the laws, the serving of judicial writs and processes, and the preservation of the peace.
⇒ In England, sheriffs are appointed by the king. In the United States, sheriffs are elected by the legislature or by the citizens, or appointed and commissioned by the executive of the State. The office of sheriff in England is judicial and ministerial. In the United States, it is mainly ministerial. The sheriff, by himself or his deputies, executes civil and criminal process throughout the county, has charge of the jail and prisoners, attends courts, and keeps the peace. His judicial authority is generally confined to ascertaining damages on writs of inquiry and the like. Sheriff, in Scotland, called sheriff depute, is properly a judge, having also certain ministerial powers. Sheriff clerk is the clerk of the Sheriff's Court in Scotland. Sheriff's Court in London is a tribunal having cognizance of certain personal actions in that city.
Wharton, Tomlins. Erskine.
© Webster 1913.