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Authority for Judiciary – Article I of US Constitution

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Authority for Judiciary – Article I of US Constitution," in The Business Professor, updated January 3, 2015, last accessed March 30, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/authority-for-judiciary-article-i-of-us-constitution/.
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Article I Authority for Courts
What is the authority for federal courts? Article I of the Constitution allows congress to create inferior courts to the Supreme Court.

Next Article: Federal Judiciary – Article II


What is the authority for the federal and state judicial systems in the United States?

The authority for the federal and state judicial systems is found in the US and state Constitutions. Below is a breakdown of the courts as authorized under Articles I, II, and III of the US Constitution. State constitutions are modeled after the US Constitution and generally establish a similar state-court structure.

Article I of the Constitution creates the legislative branch of the Federal Government. Pursuant to the authorization of Article I, Section 8, Congress has the authority to “constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court”. Also, pursuant to Article III, Section I, Congress has the authority to create legislative courts and a limited ability to delegate law-making authority to other branches. In J. W. Hampton, Jr. & Company v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the latitude to delegate regulatory powers to executive agencies as long as it provides an “intelligible principle” to govern the agency’s exercise of the delegated authority. As such, Congress delegates to the administrative agencies the responsibility for formulating regulations to effectuate and expand upon the statutes passed by Congress. These agencies, under the supervision of the executive branch, establish administrative courts to adjudicate disputes arising pursuant to agency regulations.

Discussion: How do you feel about Congress’ ability to delegate law-making authority? Have you ever thought about who drafts regulations surrounding a statute?

Discussion Input

  • Some might argue that this authority is too important to delegate to administrative agencies, which are made up of individuals who were not popularly elected. Others would argue that it is important to vest this authority in the hands of trained experts, rather than individuals who won a popular election but lack the knowledge and ability necessary to carry out this quasi-legislative function.

Practice Question: Congress passes a federal act easing the restrictions on the sale of securities by private companies. Congress outlines the specific purposes of the Act, but fails to provide any procedural mechanisms for carrying out its function. Congress, in the Act, directs the Securities and Exchange Commission (an Independent Federal Agency), to create regulations sufficient to carry out the statutory provisions. Where does Congress receive the authority to make this delegation and what statutory level of guidance is required to make this delegation constitutional?

Proposed Answer

  • Congress would have to pass a delegating statute that provides specific directions and limitations on the SEC’s authority in drafting the law. This delegating statute would have to meet the “intelligible principle” standard required for such a delegation to be constitutional.

Academic Research

Pfander, James E., Article I Tribunals, Article III Courts, and the Judicial Power of the United States. Harvard Law Review, Vol. 118, December 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=533862

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