In any modern democracy, it is usual to find different arms of government that with distinct roles. The branches of government are best described under the doctrine of separation of power that fundamentally refers to the distribution of government roles into discrete branches in the bid to reduce any arm from overstepping their powers into another. Furthermore, the intent here is to avert the concentration of power as well as provide effective checks and balances to the government. In the United States, the traditional characterizations of power are the legislative arms, the executive arm, and the judicial arm. Primarily, the executive arm is largely responsible for administering and implementing the public policy funded and enacted by the legislative arm (MacKay, 37). The judicial branch is also responsible for interpreting laws and the constitution as well as applying their interpretation skills to controversies before it. Similarly, the legislative arm is responsible for making laws of the state and approving the budget necessary for the government to operate. Even though the separation of powers is essential to the working of the U.S government, no mature democratic systems occur with the total separation of powers. This is to say that the government powers, as well as roles, through the arms, often overlap and they may be too multifaceted and correlated to be wholly compartmentalized (MacKay, 39). Thus, there exist the inherent measure of competition and even conflicts particularly among the government arms(Clark, 1321). Scenarios of power overlap among the government arms have been there throughout the history of America, and such situations demonstrate that where power resides, there exists and evolutionary process. Therefore, thisessay seeks to discuss the instances when the executive, judicial, and legislative arm of the government overstepped their traditional bounds.
Executive Branch Overstepping its Power
The executive branch is the arm of the government that is responsible for implementing the public policies. However, in the recent years, there are times when the executive overstepped their powers to that of the legislative arm. For example, President Obama surpassed his authority over the gun orders. The Supreme Court had ruled that owning a gun was a fundamental constitutional right for everyone and should not be denied to the citizens. The court had earlier articulated that the modern occurrence of the old right to bear and keep arms as the pre-colonial right. Primarily, a pre-colonial right is one, which pre-exists the political order that was established to safeguard it. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that the root of this freedom is the antique as well as consistent traditions of a free people and their natural tendencies to the self-defense (MacKay, 39).
Furthermore, the court also categorized the right as one that is fundamental and this essentially puts it in biggest class of freedoms enshrined under the Bill of Rights. However, the controversy was created when President Obama announced that through his executive powers, he shall sign the executive orders to enlarge the size as well as the scope of federal monitoring the acquisition and use of arms (Waldron 434). He also vowed to create rules, enact obligations that Congress had overruled, and prosecute people who disregard this new system. The president also directed that every licensee who flops to conduct a background check especially on the people who have transferred their gun license would be guilt-ridden of a felony. Nonetheless, the president has little space to give executive orders on arms since the congressional statute in this matter is clear, detailed, and extensive. In this case, the issue of whether American has right to bear arms has for a long time sparked numerous debates from various parties (Clark, 1321). Those who oppose it say that the arms have hugely contributed to the increased crimes among the populace while the proponents have the view that it a constitutional right enshrined in the Bill of Rights.The outcome of this executive order was later established in courts. This was a highly contested issue and many people argued that the president had no powers to issue a decree in this contentious matter. The president has no power to repudiate the legislative system will, and such attempts will not be allowed. The Supreme Court closed the simmering dispute on this matter and demonstrated that this is fundamental constitutional liberty (Clark, 1324).
Judicial Branch Overstepping its Power
Just like the executive branch, the judicial arm has also been involved in some controversy regarding expanding their power. For more than two centuries, the U.S constitution has offered the final definition of the freedoms and rights of the people. Concomitantly, the Supreme Courts have acted as the final interpreter of the American Constitution. The role of the Supreme Court is to establish whether the verdicts of lower courts remain consistent with, or in breach of rights, as well as the guarantees stipulated in the constitution(MacKay, 39). However, the judiciary has been involved in some controversial roles that see them deemed to be overstepping their mandate. The controversy emerged when the courts issued a verdict on the recent gay marriage on various states. Even though the decision was viewed as a victory for the gay couples who seek similar rights as heterosexual couples, it was also a defeat for every American, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Based on the 14th Amendment, Section 5 states that the Congress has all the power to impose, by suitable legislation, the provision of the article. The notable clause being quoted is in Section 5 expounds that no state will enforce or make any law that shall curtail the freedoms or even the immunities of the people of the U.S; nor shall any state deny any individual the liberty, life, or property when due process has not been followed(Clark, 1321). Hence, in this case, the court is seen to be overstepping on the powers of the Congress that has the role to deal with the state legislation that concerns depriving an individual life, property, or liberty. Thus, the court acted outside their mandate in this case. Furthermore, it is seen to have the pattern of leaning towards the public views as well as surpassing their bounds. Nonetheless, the outcome of the court was upheld but some people tainted the Supreme Court as one that has descended from the meticulous legal reasoning that was seen in John Marshall as well as Joseph Story to one full of mystical precepts of the privileged cookie (Clark, 1325).
Legislative Branch Overstepping its Power
The legislature is also an arm of the government that must execute its role independently but sometimes it finds itself overlapping to other powers that should be done by other arms of the government. The landmark case that best describes when legislative branch overstepped its powers was in 1991 when the Congress passed some law in to revive a series of suits that the Court had efficiently killed many months earlier (MacKay, 37). The controversy resulted when the Congress compelled the Federal courts to revisit the cases of a series of security swindle suits, which had already been established and had gone to ultimate judgment. The Congress stepped outside their constitutional responsibility and impermissibly assumed the judicial power, which the Court had held in a 7-to-2 verdict (Waldron, 433). However, beyond the immediate framework of this uncommon case, the fundamental issues of the relations among the arms of the government as well as how stringently the Supreme Court enforces and defines the matters that are subject to harsh debates. The outcome of the case was later established four years later, in 1995 when the Supreme Court struck down the move by the Congress to revive the series of suits that the court had already determined and issued the judgement. The decision by the Congress was not constitutional and was seen as one that demeans the doctrine of separation of power among the arms of the governments. The Congress expanded its powers to that bestowed to the judiciary arm of the government (Waldron, 433). Thus, this example best demonstrate when the legislative branch of the government surpassed their constitutional roles
In conclusion, the paper establishes that all arms of the government at one point, have overstepped their constitutional powers to another arm of the governments. The concept of separation of power among government arms require that each branch execute its roles within the stipulated boundaries and should not overlap to another arm. The paper shows how judiciary, legislature, and executive branches of government have surpassed their power bounds and through this, controversies, as well as contentious debates, have emerged. Hence, it becomes essential when the three arms of government exercise their powers as stipulated in the constitution.
Clark, Bradford R. “Separation of Powers as a Safeguard of Federalism.” Tex. L. Rev. 79 (2000): 1321.
MacKay, A. Wayne. “Legislature, the Executive and the Courts: The Delicate Balance of Power or Who Is Running This Country Anyway, The.” Dalhousie LJ 24 (2001): 37.
Waldron, Jeremy. “Separation of Powers in Thought and Practice.”BCL Rev. 54 (2013): 433.