Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 10 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 748 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

Although separation of powers " 'd[oes] not mean that these [three] departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no controul over the acts of each other,' " Mistretta v. United States, 488 U. S. 361, 380-381 (1989) (quoting The Federalist No. 47, supra, at 325-326 (emphasis deleted)), it remains a basic principle of our constitutional scheme that one branch of the Government may not intrude upon the central prerogatives of another. See Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U. S. 211, 225-226 (1995) (Congress may not revise judicial determinations by retroactive legislation reopening judgments); Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U. S. 714, 726 (1986) (Congress may not remove executive officers except by impeachment); INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 954-955 (1983) (Congress may not enact laws without bicameral passage and presentment of the bill to the President); United States v. Klein, 13 Wall. 128, 147 (1872) (Congress may not deprive court of jurisdiction based on the outcome of a case or undo a Presidential pardon). Even when a branch does not arrogate power to itself, moreover, the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties. Mistretta v. United States, supra, at 397-408 (examining whether statute requiring participation of Article III judges in the United States Sentencing Commission threatened the integrity of the Judicial Branch); Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U. S. 425, 445 (1977) (examining whether law requiring agency control of Presidential papers disrupted the functioning of the Executive).

Deterrence of arbitrary or tyrannical rule is not the sole reason for dispersing the federal power among three branches, however. By allocating specific powers and responsibilities to a branch fitted to the task, the Framers created a National Government that is both effective and accountable. Article I's precise rules of representation, member qualifications, bicameralism, and voting procedure make Congress the branch most capable of responsive and


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