Constitution of the United States/Art. I/Sec. 8/Clause 9 Courts

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Constitutional Law Treatise
Table of Contents
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Constitutional Law Outline
The Preamble
Article I Legislative Branch
Art. I, Section 1 Legislative Vesting Clause
Art. I, Section 2 House of Representatives
Art. I, Section 3 Senate
Art. I, Section 4 Congress
Art. I, Section 5 Proceedings
Art. I, Section 6 Rights and Disabilities
Art. I, Section 7 Legislation
Art. I, Section 8 Enumerated Powers
Art. I, Section 9 Powers Denied Congress
Art. I, Section 10 Powers Denied States
Article II Executive Branch
Art. II, Section 1 Function and Selection
Art. II, Section 2 Powers
Art. II, Section 3 Duties
Art. II, Section 4 Impeachment
Article III Judicial Branch
Art. III, Section 1 Vesting Clause
Art. III, Section 2 Justiciability
Art. III, Section 3 Treason
Article IV Relationships Between the States
Art. IV, Section 1 Full Faith and Credit Clause
Art. IV, Section 2 Interstate Comity
Art. IV, Section 3 New States and Federal Property
Art. IV, Section 4 Republican Form of Government
Article V Amending the Constitution
Article VI Supreme Law
Article VII Ratification
First Amendment: Fundamental Freedoms
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Free Speech Clause
Freedom of Association
Second Amendment: Right to Bear Arms
Third Amendment: Quartering Soldiers
Fourth Amendment: Searches and Seizures
Fifth Amendment: Rights of Persons
Sixth Amendment: Rights in Criminal Prosecutions
Seventh Amendment: Civil Trial Rights
Eighth Amendment: Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Ninth Amendment: Unenumerated Rights
Tenth Amendment: Rights Reserved to the States and the People
Eleventh Amendment: Suits Against States
Twelfth Amendment: Election of President
Thirteenth Amendment: Abolition of Slavery
Thirteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition on Slavery and Involuntary Servitude
Thirteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection and Other Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 1 Rights
Fourteenth Amend., Section 2 Apportionment of Representation
Fourteenth Amend., Section 3 Disqualification from Holding Office
Fourteenth Amend., Section 4 Public Debt
Fourteenth Amend., Section 5 Enforcement
Fifteenth Amendment: Right of Citizens to Vote
Fifteenth Amend., Section 1 Right to Vote
Fifteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Sixteenth Amendment: Income Tax
Seventeenth Amendment: Popular Election of Senators
Eighteenth Amendment: Prohibition of Liquor
Eighteenth Amend., Section 1 Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement of Prohibition
Eighteenth Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Nineteenth Amendment: Women's Suffrage
Twentieth Amendment: Presidential Term and Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 1 Terms
Twentieth Amend., Section 2 Meetings of Congress
Twentieth Amend., Section 3 Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 4 Congress and Presidential Succession
Twentieth Amend., Section 5 Effective Date
Twentieth Amend., Section 6 Ratification
Twenty-First Amendment: Repeal of Prohibition
Twenty-First Amend., Section 1 Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
Twenty-First Amend., Section 2 Importation, Transportation, and Sale of Liquor
Twenty-First Amend., Section 3 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Second Amendment: Presidential Term Limits
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 1 Limit
Twenty-Second Amend., Section 2 Ratification Deadline
Twenty-Third Amendment: District of Columbia Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 1 Electors
Twenty-Third Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Abolition of Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 1 Poll Tax
Twenty-Fourth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 1 Presidential Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 2 Vice President Vacancy
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 3 Declaration by President
Twenty-Fifth Amend., Section 4 Declaration by Vice President and Others
Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Reduction of Voting Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 1 Eighteen Years of Age
Twenty-Sixth Amend., Section 2 Enforcement
Twenty-Seventh Amendment: Congressional Compensation

Article I Legislative Branch

Section 8 Enumerated Powers

Clause 9 Courts

Clause Text
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

Inferior Federal Courts[edit | edit source]

Congress's ninth enumerated power is to "constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court"--that is, to establish lower federal courts subordinate to the Supreme Court of the United States.[1] This grant of power to Congress accords with Article III's Vesting Clause, which places the judicial power of the United States in the Supreme Court and "such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."[2]

As explained elsewhere in the Constitution Annotated,[3] the Constitutional Convention's delegates generally agreed that a national judiciary should be established with a supreme tribunal,[4] but disagreed as to whether there should be inferior federal tribunals.[5] James Wilson (who later served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court) and James Madison proposed a compromise in which Congress would be empowered to appoint inferior tribunals if necessary, which the Convention approved.[6]

The Constitution thus leaves the federal judiciary's structure--and, indeed, whether any federal courts besides the Supreme Court should exist at all--to congressional determination. Through the Judiciary Act of 1789 and subsequent enactments,[7] Congress organized the federal judiciary into district courts with original jurisdiction over most federal cases, intermediate circuit courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court.

Congress's Article I power to establish inferior federal courts, and to distribute federal jurisdiction among them, should be read alongside Article III's provisions, which set forth the reach of federal judicial power.[8] Article III also identifies certain cases in which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction.[9]

  1. See Art. III, Sec. 1: Establishment of Inferior Federal Courts.
  2. See Art. III, Section 1 Vesting Clause; see 3 Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States § 1573 (1833) (noting that the inferior courts power "properly belongs to the third article of the Constitution").
  3. See Art. III, Sec. 1: Historical Background on Establishment of Article III Courts; see also 3 Story's Commentaries, supra note here, § 1574 (reviewing the debate at the Convention over inferior federal tribunals).
  4. See 1 Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 104 (1911).
  5. See id. at 124-25. John Rutledge, for example, argued that the existing state courts--and not inferior federal courts--ought to decide all cases in the first instance with a right of appeal to the supreme national tribunal. Id. at 124.
  6. Id. at 125, 127. Madison argued that the Supreme Court's appellate workload would become "oppressive" without inferior federal tribunals. Id. at 124; see also The Federalist No. 81 (Alexander Hamilton) ("The power of constituting inferior courts is evidently calculated to obviate the necessity of having recourse to the Supreme Court in every case of federal cognizance.").
  7. See An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, 1 Stat. 73 (1789).
  8. Art. III, Sec. 2, Clause 1 Cases or Controversies; see Art. III, Sec. 2, Cl. 1: Overview of Cases or Controversies.
  9. Art. III, Sec. 2, Clause 2 Supreme Court Jurisdiction; see Art. III, Sec. 2, Cl. 2: Supreme Court Original Jurisdiction.