Article III – Judicial Branch


Article III of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the United States federal government.  The judicial branch of the federal government is comprised of the Supreme Court of the United States along with lower federal courts established by Congress pursuant to legislation.  These lower Courts include among others that Federal District Courts, the US Circuit Courts of Appeal, US Bankruptcy Courts and US Tax Courts.

Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court and defines the terms of service of all U.S. federal judges.  According to Section 1, the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may establish from time to time.  The judges shall hold their offices during good behavior which has been interpreted to mean a judge may serve for life.  Section 1 further states that while in office, the salaries of judges shall not be decreased.

Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution deals with jurisdiction of US federal courts.  Accordingly, Federal courts will have jurisdiction over:

  1. all cases arising under the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties entered into by the United States;
  2. all cases involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;
  3. all cases involving admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;
  4. all cases in which the United States is a party to the controversy;
  5. all cases in which the controversy is between two or more States;
  6. all cases between citizens of different states;
  7. all cases between citizens of the same state claiming land under the grants of different states; and
  8. all cases between            
    1. a state and a foreign state;          
    2. citizens of a state and a foreign state;            
    3. citizens of a state and citizens or subjects of a foreign state; or           
    4. a state and citizens of another state, or citizens or subjects of a foreign state.

Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution specifically defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases affecting ambassadors, public ministers and consuls, and those in controversies in which a state is a party.  In all the other cases, the Supreme Court shall have only appellate jurisdiction which shall be fixed and regulated by Congress

Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 guarantees trial by jury in all criminal courts, except for impeachment cases.  The trial must be conducted in the state where the crime was committed.  If the crime was not committed in any particular state, then the trial must be conducted in a place previously fixed by Congress.

Article III, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution defines the crime of treason and prescribes its punishment.  “Treason against the United States” means to levy war against the United States, or to adhere to their enemies, and give them aid and comfort.  To convict a person of treason, either the accused person should have confessed in open court, or two different witnesses should testify on the same “overt” act.

Pursuant to Article III, Section 3, Clause 2, Congress has the power to declare punishment for treason.  However, the punishment for treason may not “work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person” so convicted.  Therefore, the descendants of someone convicted for treason cannot be considered “tainted” by the treason of their ancestor.  Furthermore, Congress can confiscate the property of traitors only during their life time. Upon the death of the traitor, their property must be made inheritable to the descendants of the traitor.