View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, January 01, 2004

Separation of Powers

It hasn't started out as such a good year for Chief Justice Rhenquist. He's miffed about a new law that reduces federal judges' discretion in sentencing, and requires reports to Congress about judges who do depart from guidelines. He suggests that Congress should have consulted the judiciary before acting. Given this year's judicial Parade of Travesties, from the 9th Circus to the Supreme Court to the 2nd Circuit just a couple of weeks ago, I don't think he has much to complain about.

Separation of powers only works when each branch stands up for its own prerogatives. That's what Rhenquist is doing here, and there's not even a hint that he'd brook any violation of the law by a federal judge, only that he's displeased with it. But the judiciary has invited this sort of thing with it attempt to run the country from the bench. No doubt, it's only a matter of time before some federal judge declares that portion of the law invalid. Rhenquist's complaint is practically an invitation to do so. The executive and legislative branches have been much less vigorous in their own defenses.

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