Court Structure, Federal
G. Larry Mays
Federal court structure is determined by Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” This means that although the broad parameters of federal court structure are established in the Constitution, Congress decides the number of courts, their arrangement and jurisdiction, and the number and types of judges who preside over them. This situation has resulted in two different types of federal courts: constitutional courts—those established by Article III—and legislative courts—those established by the congressional authority articulated in Article I, which gives Congress the power to “to constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court.” These federal courts exist alongside state courts and, indeed, some state courts existed before the federal courts were created. Each system has its own ...