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MSC Learning Cente​r

Michigan Hall of Justice

925 W. Ottawa Street

Lansing, MI 48913

phone: 517-373-7171

fax: 517-373-7615


Rachael Drenovsky


​Three Branches of Government

​" . . . the one thing people cannot bear is a sense of injustice. Poverty, cold, even hunger are more bearable than injustice." —Millicent Fenwick

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787 and is the main law in the United States. Every law established in this country must agree with what is written in the Constitution. The first part of the Constitution (Preamble) explains why the Constitution with all its rules was written:

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Remember, the writers of the Constitution lived in a time when powerful kings, czars, and emperors ruled nearly all the countries of the world. The writers of the Constitution had come to this country to avoid such rulers and wanted to avoid the possibility of any one person seeking to have all the power of government in this new land.

The writers wanted to create a document that clearly explained how our government was to be run. The document they created—the Constitution—says there should be three branches; the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial.

Each branch has its own set of responsibilities:

Makes the Laws

Enforces the Laws

Interprets & Applies
the Laws


James Madison was one of those writers and is considered "The Father of the Constitution." He realized that no single branch should have complete control. Mr. Madison said:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.


Tyranny: act of oppression or unjust behavior

Therefore, the Constitution, by establishing the three branches of government, created a system of checks and balances to assure that power would remain with the citizens of the land.


The Legislative Branch can write the laws, but new laws require the signature of the President or Governor (Executive Branch) before the law can go into effect. If the President or Governor does not agree with the law, they can refuse to sign it and impose their veto power.


Michigan's Constitution has many similarities to the United States Constitution. Michigan has the same three branches of government serving as checks and balances for each other. Even so, Michigan's Constitution and laws may not contradict the Constitution of the United States.

Even the government of cities and towns include the three branches of government. The local city commission makes the laws, the local police enforce the laws, and the local court upholds the laws. This provides the balance of power required by the U.S. Constitution.