Article III “Constitutional Courts” – tribunals established to handle litigation, having greater independence from the other two branches of government


     The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the three levels of the federal court system in existence today. Periodically, however, Congress has exercised its power, based on Article III and Article I of the Constitution, to create other federal courts.  Courts established under Article III are known as constitutional courts and those created under Article I are called legislative courts

     Legislative courts, unlike their constitutional counterparts, often have administrative and quasi-legislative as well as judicial duties.  Another difference is that legislative courts are often created for the express purpose of helping to administer a specific congressional statute.  Constitutional courts, on the other hand, are tribunals established to handle litigation.

     Finally, the constitutional and legislative courts vary in their degree of independence from the other two branches of government.  Article III (constitutional court) judges serve during a period of good behavior, or what amounts to life tenure.  Because Article I (legislative court) judges have no constitutional guarantee of good-behavior tenure, Congress may set specific terms of office for them.  In sum, the constitutional courts have a greater degree of independence from the other two branches of government than the legislative courts. [1]

Constitutional Courts:
“Article III Courts”

U.S. Supreme Court – located in Washington, D.C., reviews unprecedented cases and announces Supreme Court Decisions which may be cited in court in order to back cases brought within other courts.  The highest court in the United States.

U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Federal Circuit – these 13 “circuit courts” review cases appealed from federal district courts, and in some cases from administrative agencies. — aka circuit courts.courts of appeals.

U.S. Federal District Courts – located in every state, the District of Columbia and in four territories: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and having original jurisdiction over virtually all cases.  These “trial courts” are where the factual record is established, and they’re the only federal courts wherein attorneys examine and cross-examine witnesses; aka trial courts.

United States Court of International Trade – nationwide jurisdiction over civil actions arising out of the customs and international trade laws of the U.S.

Also see Legislative Courts


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]:  IIP Digital website: “History and Organization of the Federal Judicial System” (retrieved 2015):

[2]: Home pages of each court’s website.


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