It is widely argued that an empowered judiciary supports better governance by strengthening the rule of law and helping to make government more accountable and stable, but how solidly that reasoning is based in fact has not been carefully analysed. As recent events in Asia illustrate, apparently similar constitutional choices about courts can have very different effects on political life and ultimately governance. To address the relative lack of empirical observation and more closely investigate the nexus between courts and governance, this article first presents a basic typology of judicial politics and then applies it to Thailand, Singapore, Korea and Japan. The intent is to: (1) provide a much-needed and more nuanced view of the unfolding judicialisation phenomenon; and (2) urge closer attention to how specific patterns of judicial behaviour in Asia relate to dimensions of governance. The study thus offers an opportunity to illuminate larger issues at the intersection of judicial engagement and political governance and to advance a theoretical understanding of both.