Article III is the third of seven articles in the Constitution, the lodestar of the KTB Prep American Government and Civics series designed to acquaint users with the origins, concepts, organizations, and policies of the United States government and political system. The goal is greater familiarization with the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.
What is the Constitution?
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.
It’s organized into three parts. The first part, the Preamble, describes the purpose of the document and the Federal Government. The second part, the seven Articles, establishes how the Government is structured and how the Constitution can be changed. The third part, the 27 Amendments, lists changes to the Constitution; the first 10 are called the Bill of Rights.
Article III establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Under Article III, the judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as lower courts created by Congress. Article III empowers the courts to handle cases or controversies arising under federal law, as well as other enumerated areas. Article III also defines treason.
Article III, Section 1: Federal Courts
Vests the judicial power of the United States in the Supreme Court, as well as inferior courts established by Congress. Along with the Vesting Clauses of Article One and Article Two, Article Three’s Vesting Clause establishes the separation of powers between the three branches of government.
Number of Courts
The creation of inferior courts is authorized, but not required. The size of the Supreme Court nor specific positions are established, but Article One establishes the position of chief justice.
Judges can hold their offices for the rest of their lives or until they are convicted or impeached by Congress.
Pay cannot be decreased while they are in office. It can be increased.
Article III, Section 2: Judicial Power; Jurisdiction; Trial By Jury
Delineates federal judicial power, and brings that power into execution by conferring original jurisdiction and also appellate jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court. Additionally, this section requires trial by jury in all criminal cases, except impeachment cases.
Clause 1: Cases and Controversies
Authorizes the federal courts to hear actual cases and controversies only. Judicial power does not extend to cases which are hypothetical, or which are proscribed due to standing, mootness, or ripeness issues. Generally, a case or controversy requires the presence of adverse parties who have a genuine interest at stake in the case.
State Sovereign Immunity
Additionally, federal courts are prohibited from hearing “any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State”.
Clause 2: Original and Appellate Jurisdiction
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in cases affecting ambassadors, ministers and consuls, and also in those controversies which are subject to federal judicial power because at least one state is a party. In other cases, the Supreme Court has only appellate jurisdiction, which may be regulated by the Congress. The Congress may not, however, amend the Court’s original jurisdiction.
The power of the federal judiciary to review the constitutionality of a statute or treaty, or to review an administrative regulation for consistency with either a statute, a treaty, or the Constitution itself, is an implied power derived in part from Clause 2 of Section though the Constitution itself does not expressly provide that the federal judiciary has the power of to do so.
Clause 3: Federal Trials
Federal crimes, except impeachment cases, must be tried before a jury, unless the defendant waives his right. The trial must be held in the state where the crime was committed. If the crime was not committed in any particular state, then the trial is held in such a place as set forth by the Congress. The United States Senate has the sole power to try impeachment cases.
Article III, Section 3: Treason
Talks about treason defining it when someone tries to attack or wage war against the United States or if he or she tries to help enemies do so in some way. In order to prove that someone committed treason, there must be at least two different witnesses to the act, or the person must confess to treason.