Separation of Powers Law & Legal Definition


Separation of powers is one of the most basic principles that guided the framers of the U.S. Constitution in designing the sytem of government. It is rooted in the idea that tyrranical government stems from the concentration of control over all the powers and functions of government in the hands of the same or a few individuals or narrow political faction. The separation of powers is premised on the principle that free popular government can best be promoted by dividing the various powers and functions of government among separate and relatively independent governmental institutions whose officials would be selected at staggered intervals and through different procedures by somewhat different constituencies. In this way, it would minimize the chance that the same small faction could gain control of them all at the same time.

The separation of power is a method of removing the amount of power in any group's hands, making it more difficult to abuse. The U.S. government has a partial separation of powers. It distinguishes between three groups. The executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The legislative branch has the ability to enact laws. The executive branch has the ability to see those laws enforced. The judicial branch has the ability to decide the guilt of a party who breaks the laws, allowing punishment and/or compensation.