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Examining the Constitution: Article III

Page 3 of the United States Constitution
Public Domain

The Third Article of the Constitution of the United States is the shortest. This is evidence of the fact that the least attention was given to the Judiciary Branch than any other when framing the document. However, it was likely assumed, and certainly came to pass, that Congress would expand on the details and structure of the Judiciary once Congress was in session. This was accomplished with the Judiciary Act of 1789. Article III contains only a minimum of the rules that make up this important institution today.

To read Article III in its entirety, go here.

Of the three branches of the United States federal government, the Judiciary is the least powerful, but none would work without the others and that is clear from the short article on the subject. It asserts that there will be judges who decide cases that pertain to the Constitution and anything that arises from Constitutional matters, such as treaties. In other words, the power to create a treaty is given specifically in the Constitution, so the Supreme Court could oversee any cases regarding the right to form a treaty, but it could also preside over cases pertaining to any treaties created using that right. These judges are coupled with juries, according to the article, which makes the branch bicameral like Congress.

While the size of the Supreme Court and other such details were not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, some details about the judges were. The President would assign the judges. Politicians select which of these will be the Chief Justice. Judges are given life tenure and a salary paid by the United States of America. That salary cannot be decreased during a judge's tenure. However, it can be increased.

Article III had all states handling criminal matters that arise within said state. The Supreme Court would handle crimes that did not happen within a state. At that time and even now, that would mean cases that arise in U.S. territories. Every criminal trial, except impeachment trials, it to be a trial by jury. Finally, Section 3 of the article explains was treason is and the minimum evidence required for a conviction.

Juries and criminal rights are scant mentioned in Article III. The treason clause is even quite short, considering that treason is punishable by death, though that is not part of the Constitution. Nonetheless, Article III managed to work as a foundation for further development of the Supreme Court. Today, it is a solidly structured institution, if not always on the right side of the document it was developed to uphold.

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