Federal judiciary of the United States

The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal judiciary. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in district courts, each of which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States district court.

Need fora Federal Judiciary:-

The Articles of Confederation made no provision for a national judiciary. Hamilton declared this to be the crowning defect of the old Government, for laws, he asserted, were dead letter without courts to expound their true meaning and define their operations.

During the period of Confederation all judicial controversies were left to the State Courts, and each State having its own legal system presented a variety of conflicting decisions which created conditions of uncertainty and innumerable complexities.

The major task of the Founding Fathers was to evolve out a judicial system which should preserve the integrity of the new government to be established and remove the chaotic conditions which were existing then. They also realized that under the system of government they were establishing, disputes between the States would become more frequent in the future and an impartial umpire, standing outside them all, would be needed to settle their controversies.

Similarly, there would be questions bearing on the relations of the United States with foreign nations on matters covered by treaties which could not, even for reasons of political expediency, be left to the State courts. To do them so, meant placing the peace and well-being of the country at the mercy of thirteen conflicting authorities.

Then, disputes were certain to arise as to the meanings of various provisions of the new constitution and with regard to the interpretation of laws passed by Congress. To leave such disputes to the courts of the different States would have meant invitation to chaos, for each State court would give different decisions, one opposed to the other.

Finally, the framers of the Constitution were planning for a more perfect union and to establish justice. If the new constitution and the laws and treaties made under it could achieve the objects set, it was imperative, they concluded, that there should be a distinctive federal court, supreme, and independent of the States.

Guided by these reasons, the Constitution makers made a provision (Article III) in the Constitutions for the federal judiciary , and while doing so they made the judicial power co-ordinate with Executive and Legislative powers. It is a brief reference and the Constitution does not say much about its structure and organization, Article III merely states that judicial power will be vested in one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Thus, Congress is given authority for the proper functioning of the Supreme Court, and to create additional courts as and when it deemed necessary and expedient. But in order to maintain the independence and integrity of the judges of all such courts, the Constitution provides for permanence of tenure during good behavior and a compensation for their services which cannot be diminished during their continuance in office.

In spite of these constitutional provisions, Congress has still the means to control the federal judiciary. True, Congress cannot abolish the Supreme Court, or diminish the salaries of the Justices, or remove any one of them from office, except by due process of impeachment, but it can make significant changes in so many other ways.

Congress can by law reduce the number of Justices by prescribing that on death, or resignation of any of them them .the vacant post shall be abolished, or accept a plan, as one proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt; to appoint new Justices up to six to the Supreme Court when Justices after reaching the age of seventy fail to resign within six months, and thus to increase the number of Justices and secure the right kind of appointments. With regard to the inferior courts, control by Congress has been real and more comprehensive.

In 1802 during Jefferson’s Presidency, it repealed the law of the preceding year creating sixteen posts of Circuit Judges which President Adams had filled, with men strong in federalist conviction at the close of his term of office. Congress can, also by law, prevent certain classes of cases from coming before the Supreme Court by refusing to provide a system of appeals. But on the whole, it can be safely said that except in times of crisis the Federal Judiciary enjoys a high degree of independence from legislative interference.

Appointment and Tenure of Judges :-

The Constitution merely stipulates that the President and Senate are to appoint Justices of the Supreme Court and authorities Congress to vest the appointment of such inferior officers as it thinks proper in the President alone, in the court of law, or in the heads of Departments. All Justices of the Supreme Court are, thus, nominated by the President and appointed by and with advice and consent of the Senate. With regard to the inferior courts, it has been settled by uniform practice that judges of all lower federal tribunals are not inferior officers and their appointment should not, therefore, vest in any other authority than the President and the Senate.

The Constitution does not state what qualifications are demanded of Justices of the Supreme Court, either-as to age, citizenship, and legal competence, or as to political views and background. From the time when. President Washington submitted to the Senate his first list of Supreme Court appointments, the attempt has been made almost invariably to select men of high prestige and outstanding ability.

Appointments have been made from time to time, it Is true, to pay political debts, to show deference to a particular section of the country, or even to provide representation fora political party, which would not otherwise be represented. But even then the caliber of the men selected has been exceptionally high. It is also true that Democratic Presidents have appointed Republicans to the Bench and Republican Presidents have selected Democrats.

The men appointed to the Supreme Court are, usually, well advanced in age at the time of their appointment. Since Justices do not readily give up office even with the approach of senility, the membership of the Court has often included men past the age when they could carry the share of their work.

One reason for the reluctance of aged Justices to resign from the Court is that they hold office during good behavior and they can be removed only by impeachment. There has been much criticism of life appointments. By the Act of 1937, Justices of the Supreme Court may retire, without resigning, after 10 continuous years of service and upon reaching the age of 70. The membership of the Supreme Court has been fixed at nine. No Justice of the Supreme Court has been removed by impeachment. Samuel Chase is the only Supreme Court Justice to have been impeached, but he was not convicted.