The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 386 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Sec.14.  The attorney-general attends to all suits in the supreme court of the United States in which the United States is a party or is concerned, and gives his opinions on questions of law when requested by the president or heads of departments.

Chapter XLII.

Judicial Department.

Sec.1.  We come now to the third article of the constitution.  The first two sections provide for the organization, and prescribe the powers, of the courts of the United States.  The want of a national judiciary was a material defect of the confederation.  Dependence upon the state courts to enforce the laws of the union, subjected the government to great inconvenience and embarrassment.  A government that has a legislature and an executive, should also have a judiciary to judge of and interpret the laws.  The constitution declares that “the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the congress may ordain and establish.”  Under the authority here given, congress passed the judiciary act of 1789, by which the several courts of the United States were established.

Sec.2.  The same section declares, “The judges of both the supreme and inferior courts shall hold their offices during good behavior.”  In no other department of the general government are offices held for so long a term, which is virtually for life, unless removed on impeachment, or for inability.  To insure a correct and impartial administration of justice, the judges should be independent.  If they could be displaced at the pleasure of the appointing power, or by frequent elections, they might be tempted to conform their opinions and decisions to the wishes of those on whom they were dependent for continuance in office.  The object of the framers was to remove them as far as possible from party influence.

Sec.3.  It is further provided, with a view to the independence of the judges, that their “compensation shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”  Salaries are fixed by congress.  To give congress power over the purse of an officer, is to give it power over his will.  Dependence upon the legislature would be as great an evil as dependence upon the appointing power.  Besides, men generally selected for high judicial offices are eminent lawyers, pursuing a lucrative professional business; and, without a liberal salary, men of the greatest ability would not accept these offices; or if in office, an essential reduction of their compensation might induce them to resign their offices.

Sec.4.  The next section enumerates the cases to be tried in these courts.  It is evident from their nature that state courts are not the proper tribunals to try them.  Also all violations of the laws of the United States are tried in the national courts.  Thus, the counterfeiting of United States coin, murder and other crimes committed on the sea, beyond the jurisdiction of a state, smuggling goods, that is, secretly importing dutiable goods without paying the duties, infringements of patent rights, &c., are prosecuted in courts of the United States.

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