What’s Judicial Branch?
The judicial branch is the court system in a country. The Supreme Court is the highest federal court and hears appeals in cases that challenge laws or actions passed by Congress. The Constitution requires that lower courts follow Supreme Court precedent.
The Supreme Court and other district, circuit and specialized courts interpret laws and resolve disputes. This branch operates separately from the executive and legislative branches, but works with them.
Courts hear legal cases and decide them based on law. They are a check on the power of legislative and executive branches, and judges’ decisions are usually based on facts rather than politics.
The judiciary also includes appellate courts that review the fairness of lower-level courts’ decisions. These are normally staffed by multiple judges, unlike trial courts which are presided over by a single judge.
Constitutions set up different methods for selecting judges, with some countries holding elections while others appoint them (with or without Senate confirmation). A policy circle can bring together people who have an interest in judicial selection to develop ideas and take action. This can include bringing together experts who can discuss qualifications for judging, methods of selecting judges and pros and cons of different methods. This is particularly important when there are competing proposals for reform. Judges’ institutional legitimacy depends on their perceived impartiality and that their decisions are rooted in law, not politics and ideology.
Judges are public officials vested with the power to hear and decide legal matters brought before a court of law. They often write opinions or judgments on cases, which establish legal precedent and guide lower courts in similar situations. Judges are also tasked with overseeing trial proceedings and ensuring that procedures are followed.
Judgeships are often appointed rather than elected. At the federal level, the Constitution grants the president the power to appoint judges to courts inferior to the Supreme Court (district and appellate courts), with Senate confirmation.
The qualifications to become a judge vary considerably, even within a country. A rural justice of the peace—often untrained in the law, sitting alone in a makeshift courtroom in everyday work clothes and collecting small fees or a pittance for salary to try a caseload full of routine traffic cases—barely resembles the black-robed justices of the United States Supreme Court. Many different methods for selecting judges have been used, with varying degrees of success.
Judicial review is the principle that courts can overturn laws passed by legislatures if they believe they are unconstitutional. This is an important part of our constitutional democracy, and it allows the Supreme Court to play a powerful role in ensuring that other branches of government obey the Constitution.
Although it is not explicitly stated in the United States Constitution, judicial review is a central concept of our governmental system. The Constitution guarantees that the Supreme Court has the power to review laws and executive actions by other governmental bodies, to make sure they comply with the constitution.
This judicial review is not just about whether or not the law is constitutional; it also involves whether the decision-maker has the legal authority to make that particular decision. The Supreme Court is able to strike down laws if they believe they are illegal, procedurally unfair, or irrational. However, it is important to note that judicial review must be done with caution in order not to violate the principle of Separation of Powers.
Many people believe that judges should be shielded from outside pressures and allowed to make decisions based upon their reading of the law. However, most Americans also believe that judges are influenced by partisan considerations at least somewhat.
The Constitution requires a national Supreme Court, but leaves it to Congress to determine the number of justices and how to establish courts inferior to it (such as district and appellate courts). It gives the President power to appoint federal judges with Senate confirmation. It also gives states the choice of whether to hold elections for judges or choose them through a merit system, where a panel of appointed lawyers and nonlawyers makes judicial nominations.
The judicial branch can build public confidence by faithfully performing its duties, and by effectively carrying out its internal oversight, review and governance responsibilities. It can also earn public trust and confidence by ensuring scrupulous adherence to established ethical standards. People may hold opinions about a court based on its decisions or how it conducts itself in the midst of a controversy.