Friday, February 05, 2010

Judiciary violates separation of powers to defend separation of powers?

Having had time to think about last week's MSSC order, TBA sees some problems with it.

Some have criticized it as an "advisory opinion" decided without a case or controversy before the court.

However, the MSSC wears two hats: it's the high court of the state, *and* it's the highest authority over the judicial branch, in an "administrative" sense.

That I take it is why it issued an "administrative order," not an opinion.

The problem however is that its order purported to command the State Fiscal Officer not to impose certain cuts. I don't see how the court had that authority in its administrative capacity, any more than the Governor has the authority to order a circuit court judge to rule on a motion.

Better would have been to make the court's position crystal-clear without that part of the order, and then let the normal judicial process roll if the SFO decided to implement the cuts anyway. The lower courts would know exactly what the MSSC thought about the issue and would either rule accordingly (98% chance) or sass the court and get reversed (2%).

But it would be interesting to see whether and how an executive-branch officer can be held in contempt of an *administrative* order issued by the MSSC, which in that capacity has, I would think, zero authority over the SFO. In other words, for all its trumpeting about "separation of powers," the court's order itself violates that separation.

Since however he's stated that he's not going to take a chance and find out, guess we won't find out, this time.

... Stolen from our comment over at Bardwell's.

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