Select Page

Federal Courts
University of Connecticut School of Law
Dailey, Anne C.

Federal Courts
Anne Dailey
Federal Courts
U.S. Const., Art. III
Article 3 section 1 – “in such inferior Courts as the congress may from time to time ordain and establish”
Congress didn’t have to establish the inferior courts. 
Madisonian Compromise: gave Congress the power to create or not create inferior federal courts, as well as the power to regulate the jurisdiction of all the federal courts, including the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
Could Congress abolish the lower federal courts?
Might be violative of the 5th amendment’s due process clause
One could argue that the Civil War altered the relationship between the States and the Federal Government; in an implied way, the Civil War Amendments altered Article 3
Judiciary Act of 1789 § 13: did several important things:
Created a federal court system. Article III left to Congress the decision whether to establish a system of federal courts to handle the judicial business of the new nation, or whether to leave that business to the state courts. Here, Congress took the opportunity to create a federal court system.
Granted narrower jurisdiction than that authorized by Art. III. The inferior courts established by the Act were given some, but not all, of the jurisdiction authorized by Art III. Congress has since never conferred the full scope of jurisdiction (amount in controversy requirement)
Established categories of suits within federal courts’ jurisdiction. The act empowered the federal court system to her several important categories of suits including
Foreign commerce and international relations. 
Assertion of federal rights
Marbury v. Madison
Marbury went directly to the SCOTUS and filed for a writ of mandamus
Questions asked:
Has the applicant the right to the commission he demands?
Yes, violative of a vested legal right
If he has a right, and that right has been violated, do the laws of his country afford him a remedy? (Real question for this class). He wants a writ of mandamus
Court asks, did Congress give us the power to issue this writ of mandamus? (look to the judicial act of 1789) And if so, does it comply with Article 3 of the Constitution?
1789 Act established the SCOTUS as 5 justices plus one chief; established lower courts; and then circuit courts (composed of one justice and then a circuit court judge); then, it laid out which matters the various courts can hear
This case could have been decided on statutory grounds – you could just say that the court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear this matter under section 13. Marshall WANTED to reach the Constitutional issue to

w, all attempts to restrict jurisdiction would be Unconstitutional
BUT not even the First Judiciary Act vested in Federal courts power to hear all matters outlined in Art III
Justice Story’s broad reading of Art III
                                                                                             i.            Art III as mandating the vesting in the federal courts of the entire judicial power described in article III. In Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, he said that the language of Art III provided that the judicial power SHALL be vested – the vesting of jurisdiction was mandatory and it extended to all cases described in Art III, Sec 2, Cl. 1 (“It is a duty to vest the whole judicial power”).
                                                                                                                  1.            As a matter of practice, Story’s position has been rejected. Today it is widely assumed that Congress has significant and legitimate power to grant or withhold from the federal courts the jurisdiction described in Art III
Conventional Reading of Art III