Article III | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Procedural Law

Article III of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court and specifies how the lower courts in the federal system are to be created.

Section 1 of Article III reads:

“The Judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

Article III of the United States Constitution is one of the shortest and most important sections of the document. It establishes the Supreme Court of the United States and gives Congress the power to create inferior courts. It also outlines the jurisdiction of the federal courts, including the power to hear cases arising under the Constitution, federal law, and disputes between states.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the federal system and consists of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. The Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, Justices serve for life or until retirement. The Supreme Court’s primary function is to interpret the Constitution and ensure that the other branches of government adhere to its principles. It is the final arbiter of the law and has the power to strike down federal or state laws that it deems unconstitutional.

The lower courts in the federal system consist of district courts and courts of appeals. District courts are the trial courts of the federal system, hearing both civil and criminal cases. They are divided geographically into 94 districts across the country. The courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts in the federal system. They hear appeals from district court decisions and have the power to review federal agency decisions. There are 13 courts of appeals, each covering a geographic circuit.

While Article III establishes the federal court system, it also limits the power of federal judges. Judges may only hear “cases and controversies,” meaning that they may not issue advisory opinions or make decisions that are not directly related to a specific dispute. The Constitution also provides for judicial independence by establishing that judges may only be removed from office through impeachment. This helps ensure that judges are free to make decisions based on the law and not political pressure.

In addition to outlining the structure of the federal court system, Article III has also been interpreted to establish the principle of judicial review. This means that the federal courts have the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution or other federal laws. This power has been used in many landmark cases throughout American history, such as Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review, and Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregation in public schools.

Article III of the Constitution is a crucial piece of the American government. It establishes the Supreme Court and the federal court system, outlines the jurisdiction and limitations of the courts, and ensures that the judiciary remains independent and empowered to uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of all citizens.

Learn More

On this Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/08/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Doc's Things and Stuff uses Accessibility Checker to monitor our website's accessibility.