What is the role of the judicial branch of the government?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In most governments, the role of the judicial branch is to interpret and apply the law to specific cases. The legislative branch, of course, makes laws, and it is the responsibility of the court to figure out how the laws ought to be applied. This responsibility is perhaps most clearly seen at the federal level, and especially at the Supreme Court, which determines whether or not laws passed by Congress (or the states) are consistent with the United States Constitution. To do this, they have to interpret both the wording of the law, and that of the Constitution itself. For example, when the part of the Affordable Health Care Act ("Obamacare") that mandated that people have health insurance or pay a fine was challenged in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to tax granted to Congress in the Constitution made the Act constitutional. The Supreme Court was interpreting the law itself, but especially the Constitution. They were not making or enforcing law, but interpreting it with their decision. 

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