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Who holds true power in government?


Let me be the judge


By Greg Jackson, Esq.

Greg Jackson

Until recently, I wondered if one of the three branches of government – executive, legislative or judicial - was more powerful than the others. I was taught that the branches were equal as each served as a check-and-balance to the others. Nationally, the legislative branch, which includes Congress and agencies that support Congress, enacts laws. The executive branch, which includes POTUS as the chief executive and commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, as well as the Vice President, and Cabinet, carries out and enforces laws. The judicial branch, comprised of the federal courts, interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.

The federal branches of government also translate to the state level which has a legislative branch (i.e., Florida House and Senate), executive branch (i.e., Florida Governor as commander-in-chief of the National Guard and cabinet, etc.) and judicial branch (i.e., Florida Supreme Court). This also translates to a local level legislative branch (i.e., Apopka Commissioners), executive branch (Apopka Mayor with police force), and judicial branch (i.e., circuit and county courts).

So, you are probably wondering where I am going with this. Well, quite simply, I am beginning to think that there is one branch of government that is indeed more powerful than the others on the federal, state and local levels. If you think it is the legislative branch, that is understandable since they make the laws, but I disagree. If you are thinking the executive branch, I can see how that would be the thought particularly since it is the most high-profile of the branches, but again I disagree. Instead, I have concluded that the strongest branch of government, is the judicial branch.

Think about it: If an arrest is made and the officer does not follow Miranda, the court can throw out the arrest or subsequent conviction. If the government wants to do a wire-tape or enter a person’s property without permission, except under certain conditions, there must be a court order allowing such actions. As another example, if the legislature enacts a law, the court can deem the provision unconstitutional. If the chief executive (i.e., POTUS, governor or mayor) sets in place an executive order or provision, the court can deem the order unlawful. In comparison, while the judicial branch can basically oversee all of the other branches of government, including itself, no other branch can easily check the judicial branch. Sure, there have been times when laws were enacted or amended to address a court ruling, but what happens if the court deems the provision unconstitutional or unlawful? You guessed it, the law can be appealed.

In bringing this closer to home, of interest to Apopkans is the early-1980s case, Dowdell v. City of Apopka, a class-action lawsuit brought by residents of South Apopka to address disparate facilities and services. In that case, taking away the complex legalese, the court ruled that the City of Apopka had to provide paving and maintenance of streets, storm water drainage and sewage facilities, a water distribution system, and park recreational facilities to areas of South Apopka, even those areas that were not technically in the city. How was the court able to usurp the boundaries, responsibilities, and authority of the city to effectively order the City to provide services to areas of South Apopka that were outside of its boundaries? While quite simply, the court deemed it necessary and with the stroke of the pen made it so.

As more and more talk continues about South Apopka and the failure to use available funds to promote economic development, one must wonder if the next Dowdell v. City of Apopka is around the corner. Rest assured, if it does it will not be from my efforts. Although I have been vocal about the need to bring about economic opportunities to facilitate the areas of Apopka that sit to the North and South of 441 becoming reflections of each other, I have never viewed this as a legal battle. My purpose has been to spark a meaningful conversation about ways to improve all of Apopka. From the Apopka Task Force to the Community Redevelopment Agency training taken place in Apopka and hosting 16 CRAs from across Central Florida to discuss ways to ignite economic development in underserved areas, it is humbling to see that change is possible and welcomed by most. But, I also know that there are some who wish that I would just go away, and I assure you that day will come (just not today). In my judgment, the surface has just been scratched, so I will continue since much more is possible through this conversation – in my humble opinion.

Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.

Greg Jackson


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