Federal tribunals in the United States

The federal tribunals of the United States include both Article III tribunals (federal courts) as well as adjudicative entities which are classified as Article I or Article IV tribunals. Some of the latter entities are also formally denominated as courts, but they do not enjoy certain protections afforded to Article III courts. These tribunals are described in reference to the article of the federal Constitution from which the tribunal's authority stems. The use of the term "tribunal" in this context as a blanket term to encompass both courts and other adjudicative entities comes from section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, which expressly grants Congress the power to constitute tribunals inferior to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Article III courts

Article III courts (also called Article III tribunals) are the U.S. Supreme Court and the inferior courts of the United States established by the Congress, which currently are the 13 United States courts of appeals, the 91 United States district courts (including the districts of D.C. and Puerto Rico, but excluding three other territorial district courts), and the U.S. Court of International Trade. They constitute the judicial branch of the federal government (which is defined by Article III of the Constitution). Pursuant to the Appointments Clause in Article II, all members of Article III tribunals are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Under the Constitution, Congress can vest these courts with jurisdiction to hear cases involving the Constitution or federal law and certain cases involving disputes between citizens of different states or countries. Article III includes provisions to protect the courts against influence by the other branches of government: judges may not have their salaries reduced during their tenure in office, and their appointment is for life (barring impeachment).

The Supreme Court has ruled that only Article III courts may render final judgments in cases involving life, liberty, and private property rights, with limited exceptions, as discussed below.

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