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The “Know Your Constitution” Series: Our Breakdown of Article 3

Posted by Justin on

The United States Constitution is comprised of seven key Articles, many of which the general American public isn’t well-enough educated on. It’s always important to know how and why our country’s guiding document works.

Let’s take a closer look at Article 3 of the Constitution, which primarily establishes the judicial branch of our Federal Government along with some ancillary rules and restrictions.

Article 3 itself is broken up into three sections:

Article 3, Section 1

Section 1 is fairly straightforward. It states that all the judicial power in the United States (i.e. the powers to judge crimes or to interpret laws) will be vested in a single Supreme Court.

Furthermore, it establishes that inferior or lower courts may also hold supreme power in certain circumstances.

It also establishes that the judges of the Supreme Court can keep their offices for life provided they have “good behavior” (they don’t break the law) and that they will receive compensation throughout their tenure.

So, Section 1 establishes the idea of the Supreme Court and the judicial branch.

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Article 3, Section 2

Section 2 goes into more detail about the reach of judicial power. It states that the Supreme Court’s judicial power will extend all cases in the United States, effectively naming the Supreme Court the “highest law of the land”.

Furthermore, it establishes a few specifics regarding certain crimes or cases. For example, in cases that affect ambassadors and other public ministers and consuls, the Supreme Court will have original jurisdiction.

For another example, Section 2 states that trials for all crimes except impeachment will be trials by jury, and that the trials have to be held in the state where the crimes were committed.

There are a few extra details and tidbits, but these are the broad strokes of Section 2.

Article 3, Section 3

Section 3 deals with the grave matter of treason, which has very strict requirements. For someone to commit treason, they must either go to war with the United States or give “aid and comfort” to the nation’s enemies.

Section 3 additionally states that people can’t be convicted of treason unless there is testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or the accused confesses in open court.

Under Section 3 of Article 3, Congress, rather than the Supreme Court, has the power to declare the punishment for treason if convicted.

Overall, Section 3 is a little more specific and not quite as important as the other two Sections, but they all help to outline many of the judicial principles that still affect our legal process today.

The Wrap Up

Article 3 is interesting because you have to read several other articles in the Constitution beforehand to fully grasp all of its aspects. For example, Article 1 tells the reader where legislative power resides – in Congress – whereas Article 2 tells the reader of the Constitution where Federal power resides – with the Presidency.

When combined, Articles 1, 2, and 3 help to establish our Federal Government and describe all three of its major branches. These Articles are the bedrock of our government and are arguably the most important parts of our Constitution.

Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots. 

Justin | Right Wing Gear
Maine, USA

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