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The U.S. Constitution - Article Three


U.S. Supreme Court building

Article Three of the U.S. Constitution establishes the federal court system, which makes up the judicial branch of the United States’ government.

Article Three of the U.S. Constitution establishes the federal court system, which makes up the judicial branch of the United States’ government.The judicial branch includes the U.S. Supreme court, as well as lower federal courts, which are established by the Congress. The Supreme Court is usually understood to be the highest appellate court, but it does have the ability, granted to it by Article Three, to hear original, first-time cases. Article Three also grants Congress the ability to define federal crimes and to decide how transgressions against federal laws may be punished.

In addition, Article Three protects the right to trial by jury in all criminal cases, and defines the crime of treason.

Section 1 declares that the judicial power of the United States rests in federal courts, which have the authority to interpret and apply the law to any particular case. Federal courts also have the power to punish, sentence, and direct future action to resolve conflicts. The Constitution expressly outlines the federal judicial system.

To enforce judicial decisions, the Constitution grants federal courts protection from contempt. In other words, anyone defying the courts’ authority, casting disrespect on a court, or impeding its ability court to perform its function may be immediately punished.

Clause 2 of Section 2 specifies that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in cases involving ambassadors, ministers and consuls. Indeed, Federal courts are empowered by Article Three to hear any case arising under the laws of the United States and its treaties; cases dealing with international maritime law and conflicting land grants of different states; as well as cases in which the parties live in different states, or where one of the parties is a foreign state, or the citizen of a foreign state.

But the most important function of the federal courts is to check unconstitutional abuses of power by the President or by Congress. As Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution put it: “The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law.”

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