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Separation Of Powers

Under the separation-of-powers doctrine, the judiciary shares power with the executive and legislative branches of government at both the state and federal levels. The judiciary is delegated the duty of interpreting and applying the laws that are passed by the legislature and enforced by the EXECUTIVE BRANCH.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress its lawmaking power, and Article II authorizes the president to sign and VETO legislation and to execute laws that are enacted. Article III grants the federal judiciary the power to adjudicate, among other things, lawsuits that arise under the Constitution, congressional law, and treaties with foreign countries.

Federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, are not elected to office. Instead, they are appointed to office by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. Once appointed, federal judges hold office for life, unless they resign or are impeached for "Treason, BRIBERY, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors" (U.S. Const. art. II, § 4).

The lifetime appointment of federal judges is controversial. On one hand, the federal judiciary runs the risk of growing out of touch with popular sentiment because it is being immunized from the electorate. On the other hand, it is considered necessary for the judiciary to remain independent of popular will so that judges will decide cases according to legal principles, not political considerations.

In many states judges are elected to office. Nonetheless, each state constitution similarly delegates powers among the three branches of government. Accordingly, judges are still expected to decide cases based on the law, not the political considerations that the executive and legislative branches may take into account in executing their duties.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Jokes to Robert Marion La FolletteJudiciary - The Politicizing Of American Jurisprudence, Federalism, Separation Of Powers, Hierarchy, Cross-references