What's one enumerated power the legislative branch has over the courts?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another enumerated power of Congress that few people take notice of appears in Article I and Article III of the Constitution.  The Constitution creates the Supreme Court of the United States, but it does not create any other court in the federal system of jurisprudence.  The creation of the District Courts, the trial courts, and the Circuit Courts, which are the first courts of appeal from the District Courts, is the responsibility of Congress.  In Article I, Section 8, it states Congress is empowered "To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court," and in Article III, Section 1, it states, "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."

At least in theory, Congress, which created this system, could dismantle it, eliminating both District and Circuit Courts.  The implications of this are staggering, for many reasons. On a purely practical level, nine men and women would be ill-equipped to deal with all the federal issues that need disposition.  In spite of how such an action would devastate the federal system of justice, there are politicians who have actually threatened to do this, either eliminating the lower courts or limiting their jurisdiction.  Congress clearly has the power to do so, under Article I and Article III. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Enumerated powers are powers that are specifically given to a branch of the government by the Constitution.  Each branch has been given powers that allow it to have some control over the other branches of government.  We tend to refer to these as “checks and balances.” 

The legislature does have some powers that allow it to have control over the courts.  One of these is the fact that the Senate (one part of the legislative branch) gets to vote on whether to approve the nominations of federal judges.  This gives it power over who gets to be part of the courts.  Another power is that the legislature has the power to impeach judges.

These are two of the enumerated powers that the legislative branch holds over the courts.