Checks and Balances

By Hayes, Dennis Courtland | Judicature, January/February 2013 | Go to article overview

Checks and Balances


Hayes, Dennis Courtland, Judicature


Watching the film "Lincoln" a few days before President Obama was sworn in for his second term using President Abraham Lincoln's personal Bible, so close to President Lincoln's birthday remembrance in February, I am struck by his famous words justifying passage of the 13th amendment as depicted in the movie: "Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other."

Even though President Lincoln was speaking of equality between the races, as the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution ultimately would boldly declare as free all enslaved people in America, it strikes me that the wisdom and logic found in that idea hold true to this nation's concept of separation of powers. The Founders' formation of coequal branches of government - the executive, legislative, and judicial - equal in their responsibilities under the Constitution and laws of the United States and in their accountability to the American people, is the rock upon which the world's longest-standing democracy rests.

True, we need not apply metaphorical notions to this aspect of our governmental structure because the Founders were careful to expressly denote the independence of the three branches and to designate a system of checks and balances as well. However, the universality of this idea is inspirational. For AJS's part in traditionally respecting and working with each branch of our government, AJS members have a right to be proud of the organization's 100 year record of advocacy for a strong, independent, and competent judiciary and of its devoted efforts to guarantee the fair administration of justice for all.

Regrettably, our nation's capacity to administer justice has been compromised by cuts to court budgets. The editorial within this issue of Judicature chronicles a state of affairs which threatens the ability of our judicial system to dispense equal justice for all. Courtroom closures, staff layoffs, and long delays in processing cases continue to hamper judicial operations in many states. …

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