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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 II – Article II of the Constitution establishes the executive branch. It grants the President authority to preside over certain administrative agencies and legislative courts created by Congress. Many administrative agencies create special courts for the adjudication of disputes arising under its jurisdiction or within its regulatory authority. These administrative courts are known as “Article I courts” based upon their authorization. Legislative courts are courts of special jurisdiction created by Congress to hear special matters.
Discussion: How do you feel about administrative agencies establishing their own courts? How do you feel about the Executive branch overseeing administrative courts? Does the ability to appeal administrative decisions to an Article III court provide sufficient check on the executive branch’s authority?
- Some would argue that administrative courts do not offer the same procedural protections of an Article III court, thus should not be allowed. Others focus on the specialty knowledge requirements and procedural efficiency of administrative courts in supporting their existence. The ability to appeal an administrative decision does not come without substantial burden. Some see this burden as too great, and believe that an individual should have a right to proceed directly to challenge an agency decision in an Article III court. Others see the appeals procedure as adequate given that individuals ultimately have the ability to voice their appeals in an Article III court.
Practice Question: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is an executive agency under the purview of the President of the United States. John receives a letter from the IRS explaining that he has income tax liability far beyond what John believes is accurate. After disputing the IRS’s tax assessment, John decides to bring a legal action in the United States Tax Court challenging the tax amount and obligation to pay. What is the authority of the US Tax Court and does it have authority to hear the matter of John’s tax assessment?
- The US Tax Court was created by Congress and derives its jurisdiction from Article I. SCOTUS reaffirmed the authority of the Tax Court in Freytag v. Commissioner stating that the current United States Tax Court is an “Article I legislative court” that “exercises a portion of the judicial power of the United States.”