Several times I hear in my country situations like this:

  • The judicial branch ordered the executive branch to raise salaries to retirees after a citizen won a judgment to the government. Result: Nothing happens.
  • The judicial branch ordered the adaptation of facilities for handicapped. Result: Nothing happens.

Are there general measures or other legal measures taken when the executive branch doesn't follow orders from the judicial branch?

  • 5
    Could you specify your country? Not all judicial (or executive) branches are created equal. Situations like this have happened before (Marbury v. Madison was a somewhat skillful evasion of such a problem in early US history), and I think they boil down to respect for the rule of law and perceived consequences from the public. Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 16:11
  • I would like to know how it is not only in my country. To see if there is a good way to solve it or something somewhere. My country is Argentina just in case.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 16:52
  • What sort of measures are you looking for? The ultimate problem is that the executive branch contains the people with all the guns, so the judiciary's power is limited to how much people are willing to respect the law.
    – cpast
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


There are two things that bind any given branch of a constitutional government to the dictates of another branch:

  1. The dictates of the constitution itself.
  2. The will of the people.

The first one, however, has only the force that each branch and its constituent members give it. If the Executive branch collectively decides to selectively (or wholly) ignore the constitutional dictates of the judicial branch (as in your case), then the constitution itself has no force to stop the Executive branch. The branches willfully imposing upon themselves the dictates of the constitution, even when it seems inconvenient or undesirable, falls under the concept of "respect for the rule of law". The belief being that it is better to be guided by (democratic) laws and constitutions than to allow particular governments or individuals to dictate things according to their whims. Otherwise we end up with things like dictatorships, which have historically proven themselves to be undesirable for all but the few people in power (and even they sometimes meet an awful end).

This then pulls us into the second point, which is the will of the people. If one branch of a (democratic) government starts ignoring and disrespecting the rule of law, it then falls to the people to make them pay the consequences: demand rectifying legislation or other measures, elect new officials, recall existing ones, engage in protests, and in extreme situations outright rebellion. Of course, if the people by and large don't mind what's happening, or have too little power to effect change, then the offending branch can continue to do as it pleases.

China, for example, is considered by many, including its own people, to have a corrupt government. But the people are either too powerless or too unwilling to stop it. Keep in mind that before the current style of government the country was under significant duress from overpopulation, including widespread food shortages, and economic underdevelopment. This rendered many of the people desperate and willing to accept a certain degree of corruption and non-democratic rule provided the government solved and prevented such problems; it also led them to essentially accept the One Child policy. And for the most part they are credited for having done so and continuing to do so, and so the government continues largely unchallenged by its own people.*

*Reality is of course never quite so simple as to be boiled down to just a few sentences. But from my experiences with Chinese nationals, this is one of the major factors they point to.

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