Constitutional Law

Judicial Branch

Why do some consider the judicial branch the least powerful branch of government?

The judicial branch—even though it has the power to interpret laws—is considered the weakest of the three branches by many because it cannot ensure that its decisions are enforced. This dilemma was famously explained by President Andrew Jackson, who did not like two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled in favor of the Cherokee Indians in a dispute with the State of Georgia. Jackson famously said: “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

However, federal judges have great power due in part to their longevity. Federal judges receive life appointments under the Constitution. This insulates them from the political pressures that state judges—most of whom serve for specific terms and face re-election or retention—encounter.


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