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Morrison v. Olson

The majority (7-1) opinion in Morrison v. Olson essentially said that the law upholds, not contradicts, the doctrine of separation of powers. The opinion, written by Justice Rehnquist, cited the function of each branch of government in turn, noting that the Constitution provides that "the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the president alone, in the courts of law or in the heads of departments" (Kamen, 1988, p. 1). Alexia Morrison, on this view, was an inferior officer. More on the point of separation of powers, however, was Rehnquist's determination that Congress' actions in Morrison did not include an attempt to take away any powers of the executive or to control the counsel. Nor, reported Kamen (1988, p. 1) regarding the majority opinion, did the 1978 Act give the judicial branch any special power to appoint or supervise the counsel on one hand, or to execute or enforce, contrary to executive-branch obligations, specific laws in conjunction with special-counsel investigation.

In sum, the 1978 Act did not so much take away the executive branch's jurisdiction over special-counsel appointments as ensure, by means of the checks-and-balances system, that the legislative branch would see that such jurisdiction would indeed be exercised in good faith and not in response to political exigencies. Further, Morrison v. Olson had the effect of ensuring that the executive would not routinely "investigate" itself, only to find itself, for political reasons, not guilty of wrongdoing, in situations where investigation was deemed appropriate. In this regard, Rosenberg (1989) cites the rise and fall, after Morrison v. Olson, of the now apparently idiosyncratic view of the Reagan presidency that the executive branch of government was and should be self-contained at all levels. The effect of such a theory, called the theory of the unitary executive, would have been to institutionalize...

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Morrison v. Olson. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:38, September 20, 2017, from
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