Simple Civics 101- a weekly review of basic American civics
Today we’re taking a look at Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which sets up the federal government’s Judicial Branch. Article III is short. The Judicial Branch, which seems so complicated, is understandable. Let’s have a “go” at it.
-The U.S. Constitution establishes the Supreme Court.
Congress sets up or has the authority to abolish lower federal courts (Article III, section 1).
Term of Office
-Article III declares that all judges shall hold their offices during good behavior. It does not say that they retain their offices for life. They may resign or can be impeached.
Nomination and Qualification
-Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
-There are 9 Supreme Court justices with one of those being the Chief Justice. Initially, when our country began, there were six justices. At one point, after the Civil War, there were ten. Since 1869, nine justices serving has been the standard. The Constitution lists no qualifications for the Supreme Court justices.
-The Judicial Branch renders opinions. It has no authority to make law, according to the Constitution. That job belongs to the Legislative Branch (see Article I, section 1).
Areas of Jurisdiction:
-the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, treaties, admiralty, maritime affairs
-cases involving foreign officials, controversies between the states, citizens of different states or foreign nations (e.g., ambassadors, consuls)
-note the eleventh amendment revisions in 1789 and 1992: U.S. courts cannot hear cases if one of the United States is sued by a citizen who lives in another state or a person who lives in another country.
Types of Jurisdiction:
Original- when the case goes directly to the Supreme Court (e.g., cases involving states or foreign officials)
Appellate- all other cases, “both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make”
Checks and balances:
-Congress can limit the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction but has not done so in over 100 years.
-Right to trial by jury in all federal crimes except impeachment and petty misdemeanors. The trial is in the state where the crime was committed. A jury panel of your peers is a check on abuse of power by judges or prosecutors. (Recommendation: eagerly report for jury duty when you are summoned. Everyday citizens, like you, serving on a jury, ARE that check and balance on power).
-Section 3, clause 1- “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
-Conviction: on the testimony of two witnesses or a confession
-Note: “no corruption of blood” That is, Congress cannot revoke the citizenship of the person convicted of treason, nor can it take away the inheritance rights of the convicted’s family. (You are not punished simply because a family member was convicted).
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??
*Next on Simple Civics 101, we’ll review basics about how a bill becomes a law.