Due to its unique role in the separation of powers framework, judiciary is typically among the first targets of illiberal take-overs. The popular perception of the judicial system – translating into its legitimacy – might prove to be its ultimate safeguard or primary source of vulnerability. This paper employs cross-country survey data to uncover to what extent the idea of separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive is embedded in public perception. It analyses the data on trust in the judiciary (or the legal system) the Police and the national government. Assuming that separation of powers is well embedded in the public opinion, one could expect that courts and the police would be assessed separately (i.e., not highly correlated confidence levels). Moreover, it is reasonable to expect that confidence in the police and in the government – Montesquieu executive branch – would be higher than between the police and the judiciary. On the contrary, if respondents assessed institutional performance within functional clusters, courts and the police would be assessed jointly (i.e., highly correlated confidence levels). Evidence form WVS and European Social Survey suggests, that the latter is the case. Interestingly, the finding holds in both democratic and non-democratic systems, indicating serious vulnerability for liberal (constitutional democracy) design.