Separation of Powers
The government’s powers and responsibilities are divided and distributed among the branches of government, which are separate and distinct from each other. Each branch is limited to exercising its designated powers and responsibilities. The purpose of separation of powers is to promote democracy by preventing the concentration of power in one branch of government.
- Legislative branch passes laws.
- Executive branch enforces laws.
- Judicial branch interprets laws.
Checks & Balances
Mechanisms embedded in each branch’s powers and responsibilities to help balance the power in government. These mechanisms include “checks” on the power of each branch of government by another to promote democracy and safeguard against abuses of power, as well as preventing the concentration of power in one branch or that branch exercising too much power.
- President has veto power over Congress, but Congress can override the veto.
- The Supreme Court can declare laws passed by Congress or actions taken by the President to be unconstitutional and invalid.
- Congress can pass laws, but it is left to the President to enforce those laws.
New York State Government
From the Annenberg Classroom. This video discusses habeas corpus and its protection against unlawful, arbitrary detention through a focus on separation of powers and examination of four major Guantanamo Bay cases after the 9/11 attacks. Here is a handout for teachers, including a lesson plan, to use with the video.