Introduction to Constitutional Law United States

The constitutional origin of the establishment of the U. S. Supreme Court finds its basis in Article III, Section 1 of the U. S. Constitution which specifically provides, “Section 1:  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. ” According to Justice Samuel Miller, “judicial power is the power of a court to decide and pronounce a judgment and carry it into effect between persons and parties who bring a case before it for decision” (1891).

In the case of Muskrat v. United States, the court ruled that judicial power includes the power to adjudicate actual controversies between litigants and render judgment to conclusively resolve a case filed before a court of proper jurisdiction [219 U. S. 346, 361(1911)]. Section 2 further provides, “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority .

. . ” Clearly, judicial power refers to the capacity and authority to hear and decide cases by virtue of the Constitution, federal statutes and treatises. It also includes the proper interpretation of the law and its application to actual disputes and controversies. Judicial power can be exercised in two ways, i. e. those determined by the parties to the case and those defined by the nature of the issues. The first covers cases to which the U. S.

is a party and the opposing parties are different states, or in which parties are citizens in these states, while the second covers cases which involve interpretation and application of the provisions of statutes, treatises, Constitution and those pertaining to admiralty, maritime law and issues affecting  ambassadors from other countries (Abraham, 1993). Judicial power should not be confused with authority. The distinction is made clear by the words “shall be vested” in Section 1. All judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court and the inferior federal courts created by the Legislature.

It was held in a line of cases that the Constitution provided for the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It granted the courts the capacity to receive the authority/jurisdiction and by virtue of an act of Congress, it conferred jurisdiction (Story, 1833). This also means that federal courts have limited jurisdiction which the party litigants must allege and establish considering that it is conferred by law [Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U. S. 237 (1934)]. The statute that established the Supreme Court is the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (www. supremecourtus. gov). There are two types of jurisdiction, i. e.

original and appellate jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction refers to the authority of the court to hear and decide the controversy for the first time while appellate jurisdiction refers to the authority of the court to decide cases on appeal (Patrick, Pious and Ritchie 2002). The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is limited only in cases of “in suits involving ambassadors from other countries and in suits to which a state of the United States is a party” (Section 2, Article 3 U. S. Constitution). An instance of original jurisdiction was a controversy involving a dispute on boundaries of two states [Georgia v.

South Carolina, (1990) 497 U. S. 376]. The Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court. Article 3, Section 2, of the Constitution provides that “the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to law and fact” subject to a few exceptions. Congress is mandated to regulate its appellate jurisdiction relative to its nature and scope (Patrick, Pious and Ritchie 2002). Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1925 on the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. At present, the basic statute controlling the Court’s jurisdiction is found in 28 U. S. C. Section 1251 et seq. and various special laws (Patrick, et al. , 2002).

Cases are brought before the Supreme Court on appeal by means of a petition for a writ of certiorari in a case decided by the U. S. courts of appeals or by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; by petition for ‘certiorari before judgment’ for the purposes of expediting a case before the lower appellate court for review before the appellate court decides on it. Rule 11 allows the Court to take a case before judgment "only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court" (SC Rules of 2005).

In cases of redistricting of congressional or state legislative districts or when specifically authorized by a statute, appeal from decisions of U. S. District Courts may be taken. Petition for writ of certiorari in decisions of the state courts involving “an issue of Federal constitutional or statutory law where state appeals have been availed of already. The Supreme Court may also grant extraordinary write, i. e. mandamus, prohibition, or habeas corpus. Finally, it may also take cognizance of ‘certified question or proposition from U. S. Court of Appeals, where it is requested to direct it on how to decide the case” (SC Rules of 2005).