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Constitutional Law

Congress's Power Over Federal Jurisdiction

Congress's Power Over Federal Jurisdiction

Learn about Congress’s power to control (most) aspects of the jurisdiction of the lower federal courts and the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, its power to shift adjudication of federal claims to non-Article III federal decisionmakers, and the constitutional limits the courts have imposed on both.


Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that, quote, “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,” unquote. The drafters’ delegation to Congress of the decision to create the lower federal courts is known as the Madisonian Compromise. That proposal, named after Virginia delegate and future President James Madison, reconciled the competing positions of those...