Suppose there is open conflict between an executive administration and the federal judicial branch. The executive branch wants to curtail judicial power, but is hopefully limited by the Constitution in what it can do. Presumably there is also a certain precedence and decorum that discourages such conflicts from escalating. That said, were such a situation to escalate, would the executive have actions they could take that would weaken the judiciary? Likewise, does the judiciary have any proactive defenses against such measures?

My understanding is that Article III judges are fairly well protected from retaliation by their lifetime appointment. Rude remarks aside, are there actions that could, in practice, weaken their powers or imperil their jobs?

1 Answer 1


Long-term, the federal executive could influence the federal judiciary by the judicial nominations they make.

The executive could also influence the political will of the people to cause legislative change affecting the judiciary (change court composition, impeachments, quorum rules, original standing exclusivity, specialist circuits, senior status privileges, salaries, etc.) But, this is mediated through the legislative branch, with its power spread thin, and close to the people.

Aside from those political tactics, the executive only has unlawful force and disobedience to weaken the judiciary, and even those methods of disobedience have institutional checks: contempt of court charges and legislative branch impeachment of the executive.


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