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Not Quite Separated Powers

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The Framers of the United States Constitution decided to separate the legislative, executive, and judicial powers to a greater degree than was true in England at the time.  The judicial branch is headed by a separate Supreme Court, not the upper house of the legislature, an example imitated by the mother country only recently.

They didn't go the whole hog, though.  They did leave with the Senate one judicial power of the House of Lords -- trial of impeachments.  This less-than-complete separation is defended in the Federalist Papers, especially in number 66 by Hamilton.

The Senate exercised this judicial power for the first time in a decade today, convicting a corrupt judge from Louisiana, Thomas Porteous. Michael Memoli has this story in the LA Times.

Conviction on the first count was unanimous.  Subsequent counts were less than unanimous, but they have no consequence.  One is enough for removal from office, and the Senate is powerless to impose any other punishment.

"Porteous, who served on the federal court for the eastern district of Louisiana, was charged with accepting cash and other favors from individuals with business before his court in order to pay gambling debts, and with lying to the Senate and FBI following his nomination to the federal bench."

The "everybody does it in Louisiana" defense apparently didn't get much traction.

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As a Brit I would like to point out that there's a bit more to your statement about the UK Supreme Court/House of Lords. While it is true that the House of Lords originally served a dual function as both legislature and judicial body, this has not been true for several centuries. Before the change of name to the 'UK Supreme Court' the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords was a separate body in all but name - the Law Lords did not vote or take part in debate.

The rest of your post I agree with.

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