The Virginia State Constitution: A Reference Guide

By John Dinan | Go to book overview
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Article III
Division of Powers


The legislative, executive, and judicial departments shall be separate and dis-
tinct, so that none exercise the powers properly belonging to the others, nor
any person exercise the power of more than one of them at the same time;
provided, however, administrative agencies may be created by the General
Assembly with such authority and duties as the General Assembly may pre-
scribe. Provisions may be made for judicial review of any finding, order, or
judgment of such administrative agencies.

This article originated in the 1776 Constitution and has undergone several changes, including the introduction in the 1971 Constitutional revision of the clauses authorizing legislative creation and judicial review of administrative agencies.

For the most part, litigants who have raised separation of powers challenges in Virginia courts have made reference to both this article and its counterpart in the bill of rights. This was the case, for instance, in Winchester & Strasburg Railroad Co. v. Commonwealth (1906), upholding the legitimacy of the State Corporation Commission; Baliles v. Mazur (1982), upholding a requirement that projects of the Virginia Public Building Authority receive prior legislative authorization; and Taylor v. Worrell Enterprises, Inc. (1991), concluding that legislatively required disclosure of an itemized list of the Governor's long-distance calls would infringe on executive power.

Challenges have occasionally been advanced solely on the basis of this article, however. One recent example is In re Phillips (2003), where the Virginia Supreme Court rejected a separation of powers challenge to a statute permitting nonviolent felons to petition circuit court judges as a first step toward regaining the franchise.


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