Thursday, November 17, 2011

Checks and Balance

DC Voting RightsImage by dbking via Flickr

Check and balance is an important democratic principle that is contained in the US Constitution. Part of the Federalist Paper No. 51 that is thought to have been authored by Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, checks and balances is a means to extending the limitations set up by the separation of powers (Library of Congress, 2010). Each branch of government has integrated power and duty to control the power of the other two branches. Checks and balances evolved as a means to stopping usurpation of power by one branch of government. Thus, checks and balance allows for the prevention of the domination of one branch.

Examples of checks and balances are when the legislative branch passes laws either by agreeing or vetoing, when it allows the judicial branch to take in for questioning the laws and that is when the judicial branch chooses all the judges. Finally, the executive branch can veto a bill with the legislative branch checking the bill again and possibly cancelling it. The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial system in the land, has been involved in numerous cases in the past. In Bowsher v Synar of 1986, the Supreme Court invalidated the powers of the Comptroller General for impounding funds allocated for military use when the federal budget was in a state of deficit (UMKC, 2011). The Court found that the Comptroller General violated the constitutionally imposed separation of powers. Such power granted to the Supreme Court of the United States is mentioned in Article III Section 1 (US Constitution, 1867).

The Supreme Court of the United States argued November 2, 2010 and decided June 27, 2011 in the case surrounding Brown, Governor of California, et al. v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al (Brown v. Governor of California, 2011). The case was in regard to California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minor. In its closing argument, the Federal District Court found that the Act violated the First Amendment. In this case, the government cannot make judgments of what to view and listen. It is up to the individual to choose what is suitable.


The Library of Congress: Thomas. (n.d.). Federalist Paper No. 51. Retrieved February 16, 2010, from

UMKC (2011). Exploring Constitutional Conflicts. Retrieved October 6, 2011, from

US Constitution (1867). Retrieved October 6, 2011, from

Supreme Court of the United States (2011). Retrieved October 6, 2011, from
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