In this series about the Constitution, of which this is the fifth part and there are several more parts to come, we are exploring the natural unalienable rights recognized in the U. S. Constitution, keeping in mind the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness that we covered in the preceding series about the Declaration of Independence. This part covers Article III of the Constitution, about the judicial power, which resides in the courts.
Section 1 of Article III provides that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in the Supreme Court of the United States and in such inferior courts as Congress may create. Thus, the only court ordered by the U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Court. All the other federal courts are creation of Congress. I emphasize that this refers only to federal courts. Each State can have as many State courts as its State Constitution and laws may provide for.
Section 2 of Article III provides what is the extent of the judicial power of the United States. As the federal government is a central government of limited delegated powers, its judicial power is also limited. Federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction. They are courts of limited jurisdiction. This means that they can act only in certain enumerated matters. Section 2 lists those matters, which are basically matters that are beyond what any particular State could decide within the federal system. The list includes cases arising under the U.S. Constitution, federal law and treaties; cases affecting ambassadors; maritime cases; cases between States and between citizens of different States; and cases with foreign countries. Section 2 also mandates jury trials in criminal cases, and Section 3 defines de crime of treason.
What has become truly critical about the judicial power of the United States is that federal courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States, dictate what the law is in the sense that they decide the meaning, applicability and constitutionality of the laws passed by Congress and by the States. Whatever the U.S. Supreme Court finally decides about anything, is the supreme law of the land that every judge in every State is bound to obey. This may seem to contradict the limited scope of the federal judicial power, but the reality is that interpreting the meaning and applicability of State and federal laws as they relate to other federal laws and the U.S. Constitution is such a broad universe, that the result is an immense power to dictate what the valid law is as to almost anything in the Nation.
The Judicial Power of the United States, although limited to its enumerated areas of jurisdiction, exercises in effect an immense and controlling power over the Nation as a whole because almost anything may, at one time or another or under a certain circumstance or another, be deemed to affect or be affected by a federal law of by a provision of the U.S. Constitution. Particularly, our rights as citizens of the United States are governed by the U.S. Constitution and are, thus, subject to the federal judicial power for their protection and effectiveness. Further, as we will see in future parts of this series when we review the Bill of Rights, the judicial power of the U.S. has been at the forefront in the defense of our natural unalienable rights.