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Article III of the US Constitution

Article III of the US Constitution

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Article III of the US Constitution

The creation of the United
States Supreme Court came about in Article III on “The Judicial
Branch” of the Constitution. The essential concept of a United States
Supreme Court is dealt with in Section 1, “Judicial powers,” while
the operation of the United States Supreme Court toward the American legal
system as a whole is dealt with in Section 2, “Trial by Jury, Original
Jurisdiction, Jury Trials.”

While all of the subsequent
shapes and functions which have been taken by the United States Supreme Court
have derived their Constitutional basis from these Sections, the language they
contain, as is the case throughout the Constitution, are broad enough to allow
for flexibility in interpretation and responding to new challenges. 

The manner in which these generally understood
terms have affected American history has often been determined by their
earliest implementation. The Constitution suggested the scope of powers to be
given to a United States Supreme Court, for instance, by specifying
“Cases” and “Controversies.” The pertinence of these rules
to the actual United States Supreme Court, however, was established by the
Chief Justice himself, John Jay, when he pointedly turned down the
chance to comment on President Washington’s foreign policy. Jay thus
established that the United States Supreme Court should not extend beyond
rendering case judgments to deciding general Government policy.

The Constitution had previously
provided against the entanglement of the United States Supreme Court in
political skirmishes by mandating that justices could serve “during good
Behavior.” In practice, this stipulation has been interpreted as setting a
life term. 

The United States Supreme Court at once reflects
the concerns and established practices of its time and allows for the
institution to respond to issues which the Founding Fathers could scarcely have
conceived. As an example, the belief in the need for a United States Supreme
Court came in part from the theory of the separation of powers as an aspect of
governance. The concept had previously been written about by the French
Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu and implemented to a limited extent in
the English political structure. In order for the United States Supreme Court
to play its part in realizing this principle, the idea of “judicial
review” was invoked.

The Constitution itself does
not address judicial review. It was, however, on the minds of the Founding
Fathers as shown by references to the concept appearing in the Federalist
Papers and the creation of a United States Supreme Court, which was, in part,
aimed at this function. Moreover, the practicability of judicial oversight had
already been demonstrated by its use in individual state courts. As it was not
directly set out in the Constitution, however, judicial oversight was not
immediately claimed as a right by the Supreme Court, awaiting 1803 and Chief
Justice John Marshall’s opinion on the case of Marbury v. Madison. 

Four separate Chief Justice
appointments were made in the Supreme Court’s first decade, the last
of which, John Marshall, marking the decision for both longer terms for that
office and greater power in general for the Court. 

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