May 1 is Law Day, and this year’s celebration of the rule of law has its eyes on the separation of powers doctrine.
“The U.S. Constitution sets out a system of government with distinct and independent branches—Congress, the Presidency, and a Supreme Court,” reads the ABA’s Law Day site. “It also defines legislative, executive, and judicial powers and outlines how they interact. These three separate branches share power, and each branch serves as a check on the power of the others.
” ‘Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,’ James Madison explained in Federalist 51. Why? Madison believed that the Constitution’s principles of separation of powers and checks and balances preserve political liberty. They provide a framework for freedom. Yet, this framework is not self-executing. We the people must continually act to ensure that our constitutional democracy endures, preserving our liberties and advancing our rights.
“The Law Day 2018 theme enables us to reflect on the separation of powers as fundamental to our constitutional purpose and to consider how our governmental system is working for ourselves and our posterity.”
Quimbee on Separation of Powers
In its series of videos on Supreme Court cases, Quimbee has covered a number of important decisions concerning separation of powers.
- Horse majeure – justices opine that equine farm suit’s out of time (Plaut v. Spendthrift Farms, Inc.)
- Civil commitment ruled the Necessary and Proper thing to do (United States v. Comstock)
- Congress’ power-up to the president finds staying power in SCOTUS (United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.)
- Facing deportation, one immigrant took his case to SCOTUS – and won (Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha)
- What were an American’s rights after the 9/11 attacks? (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld)
- Congress makes Exceptions that doom editor (Ex parte McCardle)
- Independent counsels born of Watergate, upheld in Morrison v. Olson
News from the ABA Journal
- ABA marks 60th anniversary of Law Day with focus on separation of powers
- The executive branch pushes the boundaries of the separation of powers
- Hilarie Bass — Law Day 2018: The Balance of Power
- ABA president denounces judicial impeachment threat, points to Law Day theme
ABA marks Law Day
ABA President Hilarie Bass, in her Law Day letter, writes:
Bass will discuss the separation of powers with Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez, as part of the library’s Law Day event today at 3 p.m. ET.
The ABA will celebrate Law Day in Washington, D.C., with two other programs — a student dialogue on the separation of powers at 10 a.m. at the United States Navy Memorial, followed by the 16th Annual Leon Jaworski Public Program at 6 p.m. at the National Press Club. Bass will be presiding along with moderator Stephen Wermiel, professor of Practice of Law at American University Washington College of Law. Speaking on the for side will be Mickey Edwards, vice president of The Aspen Institute and Former U.S. Representative from Oklahoma; and Victoria Nourse, professor of Law and Director at the Center for Congressional Studies at Georgetown University Law Center. On the against side will be Edward L. Rubin, professor of Law and Political Science and Former Dean at Vanderbilt University Law School; and Laura Donohue, professor of Law and Director at the Center on National Security and the Law, Georgetown University Law Center.
More events are available on the ABA’s Law Day calendar.
The White House’s Presidential Law Day proclamation reads:
About Law Day
Envisioned in 1957 by then-ABA President Charles S. Rhyne as a national day to recognize the country’s commitment to the rule of law, Law Day was established by President Dwight Eisenhower the following year. Congress issued a joint resolution in 1961 designating May 1 as the official Law Day. Many civic groups and bar associations celebrate with a month of programs, presentations and events.
Visit the ABA’s Law Day website for Law Day resources and visit the 2018 event calendar to learn about Law Day programs scheduled throughout the country.