KU Constitution Day Celebration

Snapshot of the consitution

The Judicial Branch

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. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Constitution, Article III, Section 1.

Article III of the Constitution established the judicial branch. The judicial branch acts as a check and balance on the legislative and executive branches by determining the constitutionality of laws and presidential orders. The Supreme Court's power of judicial review over the other branches of the federal government was clearly established in 1803 in the case of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). To read the court's opinion in Marbury v. Madison and learn more about it, go to: US Info or Caselaw or Landmark Cases.

The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. District Courts (each state has at least one U.S. District Court). The federal courts hear cases that arise under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws and regulations, and treaties. Under the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, federal judges must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. To learn more about the federal court system, go to: US Courts or to Federal Judicial Center.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. It consists of nine judges called justices. The Supreme Court's jurisdiction is discretionary, meaning that it decides which cases it will hear. It hears cases from the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, or if a federal question is presented in the case, it may hear a case from the various states' courts of last resort. As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court's decisions on constitutional questions are final and binding. For more information on the history of the Supreme Court, go to: Supreme Court History or Federal Judicial Center or Findlaw.

The highest profile Kansas case decided by the Supreme Court is Brown v. Board of Education, 37 U.S. 483 (1954). In Brown, Chief Justice Warren, writing for the court, said: "We conclude that the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." To read the Supreme Court's decision in Brown and to learn more about it, go Brown v. BOE or to Landmark Cases and click on the link for Brown v. Board of Education.

As the highest court in the land determining which laws are Constitutional, the Supreme Court plays an important role in our democracy protecting the freedoms granted each of us as citizens. The following links will take you to sites where you can learn more about the Supreme Court and its decisions:

  • The Oyez Project is an extensive and well-organized site for information on historic Supreme Court cases, featuring an audio archive of actual oral arguments. Used with permission of The Oyez Project.
  • Landmark Cases , a site created by Street Law and the Supreme Court Historical Society, it features landmark cases and Constitutional concepts.
  • Supreme Court History , website for the Supreme Court Historical Society.
  • Federal Judicial Center , website for the Federal Judicial Center which is the education and research agency for the federal courts.

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