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Justitia, symbol of the judiciary.
The judiciary (also known as the judicial system or judicature) is the system of courts which interprets and applies the law in the name of the sovereign or state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary generally does not make law (that is, in a plenary fashion, which is the responsibility of the legislature) or enforce law (which is the responsibility of the executive), but rather interprets law and applies it to the facts of each case.
This branch of government is often tasked with ensuring equal justice under law. It usually consists of a court of final appeal (called the "supreme court" or "constitutional court"), together with lower courts.
The judicial branch has the power to change laws.
The term "judiciary" is also used to refer collectively to the personnel, such as judges, magistrates and other adjudicators, who form the core of a judiciary (sometimes referred to as a "bench"), as well as the staffs who keep the system running smoothly.
*In common law jurisdictions or provinces, courts interpret law, including constitutions, statutes, and regulations. They also make law (but in a limited sense, limited to the facts of particular cases) based upon prior case law in areas where the legislature has not made law. For instance, the tort of negligence is not derived from statute law in most common law jurisdictions. The term ''common law'' refers to this kind of law.
*In civil law jurisdictions, courts interpret the law, but are, at least in theory, prohibited from ''creating'' law, and thus, still in theory, do not issue rulings more general than the actual case to be judged. In practice, jurisprudence plays the same role as case law.
*In socialist law, the primary responsibility for interpreting the law belongs to the legislature.
This difference can be seen by comparing United States, France and the People's Republic of China:
* in the United States court system, the Supreme Court is the final authority on the interpretation of the federal Constitution and all statutes and regulations created pursuant to it, as well as the constitutionality of the various state laws;
* in France, the final authority on the interpretation of the law is the Council of State for administrative cases, and the Court of Cassation for civil and criminal cases;
* and in the PRC, the final authority on the interpretation of the law is the National People's Congress.
* Other countries such as Argentina have mixed systems that include lower courts, appeals courts, a cassation court (for criminal law) and a Supreme Court. In this system the Supreme Court is always the final authority but criminal cases have four stages, one more than civil law.
After the French Revolution, lawmakers prohibited any interpretation of law by judges, and the legislature was the only body permitted to interpret the law; this prohibition was later overturned by the Code Napoléon.
In France, along with other countries that Napoleon had conquered, or where there was a reception of the Civil Code approach, judges once again assumed an important role, like their English counterparts. In civil law jurisdictions at present, judges interpret the law to about the same extent as in common law jurisdictions – though it may be acknowledged in theory in a different manner than in the common law tradition which directly recognizes the limited power of judges to make law. For instance, in France, the ''jurisprudence constante'' of the Court of Cassation or the Council of State is equivalent in practice with case law.
In theory, in the French civil law tradition, a judge does not make new law; he or she merely interprets the intents of "the Legislator." The role of interpretation is traditionally approached more conservatively in civil law jurisdictions than in common law jurisdictions. When the law fails to deal with a situation, doctrinal writers and not judges call for legislative reform, though these legal scholars sometimes influence judicial