Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary should be independent from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, the executive branch, the legislature, or from private or partisan interests. Judicial independence is central to the US Constitution’s separation of powers.
The term “trias politica” or “separation of powers” was coined by Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, an 18th century French social and political philosopher. His publication, Spirit of the Laws, is considered one of the great works in the history of political theory and jurisprudence, and it inspired the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Constitution of the United States. Read overview on separation of powers.
Separation of powers, therefore, refers to the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.
The framers of the US Constitution, intentionally divided power and responsibility for the good of the Nation.
- Article I states the Legislature’s job—It is responsible for enacting the laws of the state and appropriating the money necessary to operate the government.
- Article II defines the Executive’s job—It is responsible for implementing and administering the public policy enacted and funded by the legislative branch.
- Article III defines the Judicial Branch’s job—It is responsible for interpreting the constitution and laws and applying their interpretations to controversies brought before it.
Separation of powers is particularly important in times where one branch seems unwilling to honor or abide by the responsibilities assigned to the other two. The core principle is the Constitution divides power and responsibility among constitutional branches, not between political parties.