Weekly Round-Up #2: Governmental Power and Balancing it All Out

Although this round-up is going up late for last week’s blog posts, this is no reflection on the quality of posts. I’ve been grading exams and (largely unsuccessfully) fighting a cold, which has put me a bit behind. While I’ve been doing that, clearly these students have been doing some good work as these posts are, once again, fantastic. Rather than blather on, let’s get right into it.

A handful of the student bloggers this semester are all exploring various aspects of the separation of powers in their individual blogs. While I do not imagine they will always line up nicely, this time around, I think they did. Amanda offers a nice overview, while Grace and Josh combine the ideals represented in Amanda’s post with examples from American politics, past and present. Amanda, in her post, offers a background explanation of what separation of powers means, and why it is important. She discusses Montesquieu, as well as explaining the functioning of this deceptively simple concept. Grace presents to all of us a look at the separation of practice in theory and action. She does this in her post by discussing the 1868 impeachment and trial of President Johnson. She discusses how this came about, and what this event tells us about the separation of powers in the US system of government. Josh’s post is about presidential power to send troops into foreign countries, while seeking Congressional approval only after the fact. He uses a compelling parent/child metaphor to question this practice with relationship to the separation of powers built into our system.

Both Tom and Elise wrote posts that help extend much of the conversations in the separation of powers posts, but in different ways. Tom, in his post, discusses the reason for having checks and balances. He looks at what they offer our system, as well as what happens in systems that lack these checks and balances. In this way, Tom’s post does for check and balances what Amanda’s post does for separation of powers. Elise takes us through some truly fascinating historical comparisons in her post. She begins by examining the still-stalled Merrick Garland confirmation process. From there she discusses other stalled nominations, and then compares these back to 1800 when Adams and the federalists were creating and packing courts before leaving office. As if this wasn’t enough, she then walks through a comparison of Garland with the then-soon-to-be Chief Justice John Marshall.

Listen, I have no idea what is going on here, but I feel that there is a metaphor for constitutions and government here. Somewhere. Shut up, I’m ill…

Selma O. and Ben both offer insightful posts that focus on one case as a means to discuss broader trends in American constitutional law, and how power is divided within and among governments in the U.S. Selma O., in her post, addresses questions of public funds going to religious schools. She begins with Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, but winds the discussion through many more cases as she considers questions of constitutional law, state constitutional law, tax-payer lawsuits, and basic religious liberty in the US. Ben’s post is about Gonzales v. Raich. He discusses the case, and puts it into context of modern discussions around the legalization of marijuana. All of this discussion serves as Ben’s way of also talking about the relationship between state and federal legislation around things like controlled substances.

Wrapping out the student bloggers covered in this round-up post are Taylor and Erin. Both offer discussions of minority groups and their representation in and around constitutional law. Taylor discusses the use of Native Americans as school/team mascots across the US. She begins with a recent New York Times article on the topic, but expands into other appropriations of Native Americans for mascot purposes. Erin, in her post, builds on her previous post about Fisher II by responding to claims for affirmative action to have an “expiration date.” She weaves in her own thoughts and analysis into responses to those claiming for an end to affirmative action, as well as bringing in points from Fisher II and Grutter.

All around, this is another great series of posts. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to check out the actual posts. They are fantastic and insightful.


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