Scholars have long studied executive-legislative relations in the US system of checks and balances and have paid little attention to the friction between legislatures and courts, yet these struggles are important. Legislators may be swept away by “civic populism,” loudly scapegoating the unpopular and embracing simplified panaceas to complex problems. Courts must protect the civil liberties of the unpopular and enforce limits on the public will. The authors view this perennial conflict through the lens of a case study. In 2000, the New Hampshire House of Representatives made David Brock only the seventh chief justice ever to be impeached. The charges included exercising improper influence over cases and perjury. But the real reasons ran deeper. Brock had presided over a series of unpopular decisions involving school finance. More generally, the branches disagreed over how independent courts should be. Conflicts over powers and limits always lurk below the surface of US politics and became public during Brock’s trial in the state senate. He was acquitted, but efforts to restore interbranch comity went on long afterward. The authors make this interesting story into a useful introduction to institutional state politics.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.