Monday, August 30, 2010

US Constitution Series, Article III, Section 2


§ 2. Judicial Power and Jurisdiction

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
This describes the jurisdiction of the federal court system and certain cases in which the Supreme Court has "original jurisdiction" meaning that the case may be filed directly with the Supreme Court.

I don't fully understand the original controversy predating Marbury v. Madison about whether the Supreme Court has the power to be the interpreter of the Constitution. Because the judicial power expressly extends to all cases arising under the constitution, the courts would have to interpret the meaning of the words in the Constitution. The argument against, of course, is that the Supreme Court should defer to Congress's interpretation, as a result of which no Act of Congress could ever be declared unconstitutional. I think the rule of Marbury v. Madison, that the Supreme Court may declare unconstitutional actions of the executive that contravene the Constitution (and by implication, acts of Congress) is the better view.

Another issue in this section is the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Congress has limited the jurisdiction of cases between citizens of different states to controversies exceeding $75,000. The Constitution contains no such limitation. Similarly, the diversity requirement as it has evolved says that to have jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, all plaintiffs must be residents of the different state from all defendants. It seems to me hard to derive that principle from the words in this section.

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