Why isn't having a Judiciary enough? Why do countries maintain a Ministry of Justice?

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    You understand that the judiciary (i.e. judges) normally only work in courts, not running prisons, police forces, etc?
    – origimbo
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 12:58
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    And who do you think is managing the Judiciary? Apart from other possible roles of the Ministry, judges (and other personnel) must be appointed/hired and paid, someone has to decide how many judges must work and where, someone has to manage the maintenance of court houses, etc.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 12:59
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    @SJuan76: While those are valid observations, the principle of "separation of powers" suggests that the judiciary as a separate power should be managing itself. Appointments could be handled by election or cooptation (both independently from the government). The administrative act of paying wages can be handled by independent staff in the judiciary, as can the management of real estate. Financing the judiciary would be the main interface between government and politics, but that could be done by parliamentary decision and doesn't require a ministry.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:26
  • @MSalter [pedantic]the judiciary is part of the government, maybe you mean "between executive branch of the government and judiciary branch of the government[/pedantic]. Anyway, in the cases I know salaries in the public sector are very heavily regulated, making it nearly impossible to "punish" or "befriend" judges through, say, salary increases and reductions.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:41
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    @anonymous That's going to vary massively by jurisdiction. If you look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interior_ministry you'll see that many countries separate justice & home affairs along various lines. Yes, they can be combined, but that's true of virtually all ministries.
    – origimbo
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


The judiciary is in charge of interpreting the law while the executive branch, through the Ministry of Justice, Justice Department, etc., is in charge of enforcing the law.

The judiciary is mainly comprised of courts and the functions needed to operate them and does not investigate activities leading to litigation or litigate cases before the courts.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Justice is in charge of maintaining "criminal justice, prisons, and penal policy".

The creation of a Ministry of Justice in 2007 which brought together responsibility for criminal justice, prisons, and penal policy (previously the Home Secretary’s responsibility) and responsibility for the courts service and legal aid (previously the Lord Chancellor’s responsibility)

That is also why in many countries, national law enforcement officers work for the Justice Department. For instance, in the US, the Attorney-General and U.S. attorneys are under the Justice Department.

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    FWIW, many countries treat prosecuting attorneys as part of the judicial branch, although they still put law enforcement officers in a Ministry of Justice.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:15
  • @ohwilleke Yea, it's under the Executive Branch for the US though. I'll update my answer to reflect that more clearly.
    – Panda
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:24
  • The Ministry of Justice is usually responsible for paying for the judiciary too; salaries of judges, maintenance of buildings etc.
    – pjc50
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 11:18
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    Take care not to use "Federal" to mean "at the national level". There is no such thing as "federal law enforcement officers" in most countries. Moreover, in many countries, law enforcement is done by a gendarmerie which is part of the military, and answers ultimately to the commander-in-chief.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 11:41
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    France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Netherlands, Portugaul, Turkey. All are policed by Gendarmes, at least in part. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerie
    – James K
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 6:44

At the risk of stating the obvious, the ministry of justice is responsible for policy in the area of justice. The separation of powers doesn't mean that there aren't political aspects to justice. To take some easy examples:

  • Judges don't have free rein when sentencing. Primary legislation will generally set bounds on sentencing, but there may well also be sentencing guidelines which indicate how they should operate within those bounds.
  • Budgets. All ministries lobby the treasury for money. If there is no-one of ministerial rank to stand up for the judicial system, it will always get the short straw.
  • Part of the role of a ministry is to advise legislators on legislation affecting their area of interest (and in some systems to be the primary source of new legislation in that area).
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    I'm not sure that all ministries lobby the treasury for money. There are certainly some departmental ministers who prefer to cut costs rather than lobby for increased funding.
    – bdsl
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 19:32
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    @bdsl "give us less money this year, we've cut costs" is still asking for some money.
    – Caleth
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 16:12

General de Gaulle when hearing of the International Tribunal for War Crimes in Vietnam, set up by Bertrand Russell, stated that justice flows from the state.

Obviously, this is untrue. Justice flows from both the people and the state, and for the religiously minded, that is in Islam, Christianity & Judaism, it also flows from God. It is, after all, one of his attributes.

It is the law in its legal dimension that flows solely from the state. Justice itself is higher than the law, although it is implicated in it. This is why a people can revolt justly against an unjust rule.

Whilst a judiciary interprets the law, it doesn't manage itself in toto. However, this branch of the government requires managing, that is governing. Hence a ministry of justice.

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