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Authority for Judicial System – Article III

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Authority for Judicial System – Article III," in The Business Professor, updated January 3, 2015, last accessed March 29, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/authority-for-judicial-system-article-iii/.
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Article III Federal Courts
What are Article III Federal Courts? What is the Authority for Art. III Federal Courts?

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What is the authority for Article III federal courts?

Article III Federal Court

US Supreme Court – Article III of the Constitution establishes the US Supreme Court as the highest court in the land. It has “original jurisdiction” over certain matters, but serves almost entirely as an appellate court. It provides appellate review of the decisions of the highest state court and decisions from all federal appellate courts.

  • Relevant Law: Article III, § 2, cl. 2, of the Constitution provides: “In all Cases . . . in which a State shall be Party, the Supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.” Congress has provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1251 that “(a) the Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction of: (1) All actions or proceedings to which ambassadors, other public ministers, consuls, or vice consuls of foreign states are parties; (2) All controversies between the United States and a State; (3) All actions or proceedings by a State against the citizens of another State or against aliens.”

Federal Appellate Courts – These courts serve as the appellate courts for matters decided by judge or jury in the District Court. There are 13 federal appellate courts consisting of 11 enumerated US Circuit Courts of Appeal, the District of Columbia Circuit, and the Federal Circuit.

  • Relevant Law: 28 U.S.C. § 1291 provides that, “The courts of appeals (other than the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States, the United States District Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court of the Virgin Islands, except where a direct review may be had in the Supreme Court. The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit shall be limited to the jurisdiction described in sections 1292(c) and (d) and 1295 of this title.”

Ancillary Federal Courts – These are Article III federal courts with special authority and vested with specific jurisdiction by Congress. These ancillary courts include:

  • US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was established in 1978 when Congress enacted The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is codified, as amended, at 50 U.S.C ch. 36, to oversee requests for surveillance warrants.
  • US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, has the sole purpose of reviewing denials of applications for electronic surveillance warrants.
  • US Court of International Trade, 28 USC Ch.11, was created to hear only cases involving particular international trade and customs law questions.
  • US Alien Terrorist Removal Court, 8 USC 1532, was created to determine whether non-resident aliens should be deported from the US on grounds of terrorism.

District Courts – These are the Article III trial courts for the federal system. There are approximately 94 district courts spread throughout the United States. They do not follow state boundaries; rather, they are positioned within pre-established federal jurisdictions. There are also courts of limited jurisdiction, known as federal magistrate courts, which exist in support of the federal district courts.

Discussion: Why do you think that there are fewer federal trial and appellate courts than in the state court systems? How many cases does the US Supreme Court hear in a year? Does this number surprise you? Why or why not? What do you think is the reasoning behind the creation of special ancillary courts?

Discussion Input

  • The cases that are likely to be filed at the federal trial court are fewer given the nature or subject matter of federal law. The US supreme court approximately 80 cases per year. The special courts are given special authority as deemed fit by congress. Most people see them as necessary, as they ensure special matters which may arise are dealt with effectively.

Practice Question: Meredith is involved in a civil trial in the US District Court located in the state of Maryland. At the conclusion of the trial, she appeals the court’s decision to the appropriate appellate court. Which Circuit Court of Appeals would be charged with reviewing Meredith’s request for appeal?

Proposed Answer

  • The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction includes the state of Maryland. See the circuit court map.

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