Selected Separation of Powers Resources at the BLS Library

Eric E. Johnson, U.S. Capitol no. 6605, (last visited Nov. 22, 2011) http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericejohnson/4089419553/lightbox/

As the so called “supercommittee” failed to trim the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, many are questioning whether or not the American Political system works. [1]  The Congressional failure raises questions on the efficacy of the separation of powers doctrine and the principle of checks and balances.  To learn more about these basic tenets of American Constitutional Law, there are several resources available to you at Brooklyn Law School.  Listed below are a few of the Library’s more current sources:

Eoin Carolan, The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State (2009).

Excerpt taken from book:

This book offers a radical & provocative revision of the theory of separation of powers. It argues that, although designed to protect democracy, separation of powers is often used today to undermine it by concealing & centralising the exercise of power by public officials. The theory is then reinvented for the modern regulatory state.

Louis Fischer, Constitutional Conflicts between Congress and the President (5th ed. 2007).

Excerpt taken from book:

Nearly three decades after its initial publication, Louis Fisher’s durable classic remains at the head of its class–a book that Congressional Quarterly called “as close to being indispensable as anything published in this field.” This newly revised and updated fifth edition emphatically reinforces that sterling reputation.

Fisher dissects the crucial constitutional disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government from the Constitutional Convention through President Clinton’s impeachment battles to the recent controversies over President Bush’s conduct as commander in chief. He ventures beyond traditional discussions of Supreme Court decisions to examine the day-to-day working relationships between the president and Congress.

To scholars, this book offers a comprehensive examination of the institutions and issues of public law. For practitioners, general readers, and students of American government, it demonstrates how constitutional issues shape and define current events.

Thomas Campbell, Separation of Powers in Practice (2004).

Excerpt taken from book:

Each branch of American government possesses inherent advantages and disadvantages in structure. In this book, the author relies on a separation-of-powers analysis that emphasizes the advantage of the legislature to draft precise words to fit intended situations, the judiciary’s advantage of being able to do justice in an individual case, and the executive’s homogeneity and flexibility, which best suits it to decisions of an ad hoc nature.

Identifying these structural abilities, the author analyzes major public policy issues, including gun control, flag burning, abortion, civil rights, war powers, suing the President, legislative veto, the exclusionary rule, and affirmative action. Each issue is examined not from the point of view of determining the right outcome, but with the intention of identifying the branch of government most appropriate for making the decision.


[1] Michael Cooper, A Failure is Absorbed with Disgust and Fear, but Little Surprise, N.Y. Times, Nov. 22, 2011, A19.

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