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Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Real Constitution: Article III, Section III (Definition and Penalty of Treason)

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
It seems odd for the Constitution to cross over into lawmaking like this.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Real Constitution: Article III, Section II (Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts)

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;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;-- between a State and Citizens of another State,--between Citizens of different States,--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
This also answers one of Edmund Randolph's problems with the Articles of Confederation, "that the foederal government could not check the quarrels between states".

The flip side to the Supreme Court being the bastard stepchild of the three branches of government was the seeming inability for the Constitution to be enforced if the Congress and President happened to pass something that violated it. Edmund Randolph's Virginia Plan would have called for the Congress to veto any state laws that violated the Constitution, and coming on the heels of Madison's speech calling for national unity (link: AISX), originally passed without a hitch. (Benjamin Franklin added a proviso also allowing Congress to veto any state laws contradicting treaties the US had signed.) But what about the national Congress?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Real Constitution: Article III, Section I (Basic Structure of the Federal Courts)

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.
It's Judicial Week in the Real Constitution series as we take a look at the bastard stepchild of the checks and balances system.

In the Virginia Plan, the Judiciary would have worked like this:
Resd. that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour; and to receive punctually at stated times fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution. that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall be to hear & determine in the first instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in the dernier resort, all piracies & felonies on the high seas, captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments of any National officers, and questions which may involve the national peace and harmony.
"A convenient number" of the Judiciary would also meet with the Executive to form a committee to review the decisions of the Legislature.