Why Separation is Good

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Separation of Powers

If we only remembered some of our courses from high school and eighth grade, our nation may save itself from years of debate and difficulty.  Harken back to the time when you were throwing spit wads, talking in class and counting the minutes until lunch.  Remember what you learned in civics class.  Remember “the Separation of Powers” doctrine.  This doctrine is fundamental to our form of government and serves as a protection against arbitrary government.

Our government is made up of three branches of government:  executive, legislative and judicial.  Each branch has its own function and role.  Article 1 of the constitution outlines the role of the legislative branch.  Article 2 of the constitution outlines the role of the executive branch.  Article 3 of the constitution outlines the role of the judicial branch.  As such, the executive branch is not to do the functions of the legislative branch.  The judicial branch is not to do the functions of the executive branch.  This separation is known as the “separation of powers” doctrine.  Why, however, is this legal doctrine so important.  It is important because separation is good.  It is important because of checks and balances.  It is important because it prevents the tyranny of one branch over the others.   It is important because it keeps the fragile balance of power so that we do not slouch towards a dictatorship.  I could go on and on, but here is why our founders thought the separation of powers was important.

”  The principle of the Constitution is that of a separation of legislative, executive, and judiciary functions, except in cases specified.  If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, it is clearly the spirit of the Constitution, and it ought to be so commented and acted on by every friend of free government.”  Thomas Jefferson.    “It is agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments. It is equally evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”James Madison.  Why is this discussion in the context of today’s world?  Because the surest path towards tyranny still lies in the blending of the powers.  Take the executive powers.  How many executive orders should a President sign before the citizens question whether the President is actually crossing over into the legislative powers?  How many times do we the courts find or decide what something means before the citizens question whether the courts are legislating?  People often complain of “judicial activism,” but judicial activism is really a complaint about the separation of powers doctrine.

I urge all who read this to think about the separation of powers.  Think about why it is important.  Think about how the doctrine still impacts on our lives today.  I think that if you take a little time to ponder this concept you will be amazed at how far we have come down the road to the very point warned against by our founding fathers.  I for one want to be , like Thomas Jefferson said, a friend of free government.  How about you?

Until Next Time,

 

David A. Standridge

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David Standridge graduated from Albuquerque High School and attended the University of New Mexico for his undergraduate work. He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Economics and graduated magna cum laude. He then went on to attend Law School at the University of New Mexico, graduating cum laude. In 1997 he formed the Standridge Law Firm, n/k/a the Justice Legal Group where he has been practicing law for the past 16 years. In addition to practicing law, David and his wife, Debbie, own several small businesses. David frequently speaks about legal and political issues to different community groups and organizations. David has been appointed to various boards and commissions in New Mexico. David has been married to Debbie for 19 years and has two sons, Isaac and Rylee. In his free time, David volunteers for little league baseball, enjoys gardening, hunting, and reading.

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