Thursday, January 6, 2011

Article III - The Judicial Branch

January 6, 2011 - Temecula Constitution Study with Douglas V. Gibbs

Article III - The Judicial Branch

The United States Constitution was written to establish a federal government for the United States of America. Article III establishes the federal court system. When reading Article III, one must keep in mind the fact that the article was specifically written to affect the federal court system, not the state courts. The authorities contained within this article, and the restrictions thereof, are to be applied to the federal courts, not the state courts. One must also bear in mind, as one reads this article, the additional limits placed on the federal courts by the 11th Amendment. No case against a state by citizens of another state, or by the citizens or subjects of a foreign state, shall be heard by a federal court.

The 11th Amendment changes the intent of Article III. As limited as the courts were supposed to be, the Founding Fathers realized the courts weren't limited enough, and as a result, the 11th Amendment wound up being ratified in 1795.

Federal judges maintained that the federal courts should have the power of judicial review, or the power to determine the constitutionality of laws. In response to the judicial urgings for the powers to judge the extent of the federal government's powers, in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned us that giving the federal government through its courts the power of judicial review would be a power that would continue to grow, regardless of elections, putting at risk the all important separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on power. The final arbiters of the Constitution are not the courts, argued these Founding Fathers who were believers in the limiting principles of the U.S. Constitution. The power of the federal government must be checked by state governments, and the people. The States and the People are the enforcers and protectors of the U.S. Constitution.

The problems of federal intrusion on the states via the federal court system arose in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia in 1793, which eventually led to the proposal, and ratification, of the 11th Amendment. A citizen of South Carolina sued Georgia for the value of clothing supplied by the merchant during the Revolutionary War. After Georgia refused to appear, claiming immunity as a sovereign state, as per the Constitution (Article III, Section 2) the federal courts took the case. The nationalist view of by the judges deemed that in this case Georgia was not a sovereign state, therefore the Supreme Court entered a default judgment against Georgia. What ensued was a conflict between federal jurisdiction and state sovereignty that reminded the anti-federalists of their fears of a centralized federal government consolidating the states, and destroying their right to individual sovereignty.

Realizing that the clause in Article III gave the federal courts too much power over state sovereignty, Congress immediately proposed the 11th Amendment in order to take away federal court jurisdiction in suits commenced against a state by citizens of another state or of a foreign state. This is the first instance in which a Supreme Court decision was superseded by a constitutional amendment, and evidence that the founders saw the legislative branch as being a more powerful part of government over the judiciary.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. The federal courts are included in that, as being a part of the United States federal government. Which means that federal courts can only hear cases that fall within the constitutional authorities for the federal government.

When one understands the importance of protecting state sovereignty, and that the courts are very limited in their scope and power, Article III becomes much simpler to understand.

The first sentence of Article III, Section 2, reads: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States (which are only supposed to be passed if they are within the authorities granted by the Constitution), and Treaties made . . .

Notice the phrase, "arising under this Constitution." If the case is not involving the federal government as one of the parties, or is not regarding an issue that falls under the authorities of the U.S. Constitution, the federal courts can simply not take the case. The State Supreme Court, in those cases, is the highest the case can go.

In Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 the Constitution reads: "In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction."

What this means is that in all of those above listed cases, the federal appellate courts cannot take the case. Such cases must bypass the federal appellate system, and go straight to the Supreme Court. Since one of those stipulations is in regards to cases "in which a State shall be a Party," that means that the case "U.S. v. Arizona" where the federal government is attempting to sue Arizona to block the state's immigration law, it is unconstitutional for the inferior federal courts to hear the case. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. Therefore, when the district court ruled last July on the case, and struck down parts of the law, not only did that court not have jurisdiction to hear the case in the first place, but the very act of striking down portions of the law was unconstitutional. After all, Article I, Section 1 grants the legislative branch all legislative powers, and those powers would include the ability to strike down law.

Article III, Section II, Clause 3 sets up the right to a trial by jury, except in the cases of impeachment.

Article III, Section 3 defines treason, as well as the granting of the power by the Congress to declare the punishment. When the Constitution says that "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attained," it means that the punishment cannot be inherited or passed down (corruption of blood), nor shall the person be denied due process (attainder).

Corruption of blood also means that all inheritable qualities are destroyed, and the Founding Fathers did not believe this English practice should be an American one.

No forfeiture meant that despite treason, the properties of the person could not be forfeited to the government. The property would remain as property of the individual, or remain with family.


Thank you to Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Circle West, #2 in Temecula, California for the use of their classroom.

For more information regarding classes, contact us at constitution

All other Emails should be directed to

Ó 2011 Douglas V. Gibbs

No comments:

Post a Comment