Springer v. Government of the Philippine Islands

277 U.S. 189 (1928)

Argued April 10, 1928; Decided May 14, 1928

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases, presenting substantially the same question, were argued and will be considered and disposed of together. In each case, an action in the nature of quo warranto was brought in the court below challenging the right to hold office of directors of certain corporations organized under the legislative authority of the Philippine [277 U. S. 198] Islands; No. 564 involving directors of the National Coal Company, and No. 573 involving directors of the Philippine National Bank.

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It may be stated then, as a general rule inherent in the American constitutional system, that, unless otherwise expressly provided or incidental to the powers conferred, the legislature cannot exercise either executive or judicial power; the executive cannot exercise either legislative or [277 U. S. 202] judicial power; the judiciary cannot exercise either executive or legislative power. The existence in the various Constitutions of occasional provisions expressly giving to one of the departments powers which by their nature otherwise would fall within the general scope of the authority of another department emphasizes, rather than casts doubt upon, the generally inviolate character of this basic rule.

Legislative power, as distinguished from executive power, is the authority to make laws, but not to enforce them or appoint the agents charged with the duty of such enforcement. The latter are executive functions. It is unnecessary to enlarge further upon the general subject, since it has so recently received the full consideration of this Court. Myers v. United States, 272 U. S. 52.

Not having the power of appointment unless expressly granted or incidental to its powers, the legislature cannot ingraft executive duties upon a legislative office, since that would be to usurp the power of appointment by indirection, though the case might be different if the additional duties were devolved upon an appointee of the executive. Shoemaker v. United States, 147 U. S. 282, 147 U. S. 300-301. Here, the members of the legislature who constitute a majority of the "board" and "committee," respectively, are not charged with the performance of any legislative functions or with the doing of anything which is in aid of the performance of any such functions by the legislature. Putting aside for the moment the question whether the duties devolved upon these members are vested by the Organic Act in the Governor-General, it is clear that they are not legislative in character, and still more clear that they are not judicial. The fact that they do not fall within the authority of either of these two constitutes logical ground for concluding that they do fall within that of the remaining one of the three among [277 U. S. 203] which the powers of government are divided. Compare Myers v. United States, supra, pp. 272 U. S. 117-118. . . .