S2E9: Article III, Marbury, and the Judicial Branch

hey guys welcome back um today we're

going to start talking about a branch of

our government that might be the most


lots of people when they think of the

judicial branch of the united states


they think only of the supreme court

when in fact a lot of the most important

parts of the judicial branch of our


are the 94 district courts that are

spread around the country

today we're going to understand a little

bit more about the judicial branch and

where am i standing

i'm standing not more than a couple of

miles away from where you are right now

i'm down on spielbush avenue this is the

u.s federal courthouse in toledo the


uh customs and courthouse in toledo and

i hope you'll

join me today as we try to understand

the role of this place

and how it fits into the judicial branch

of our american government everybody

this is the beginning of a four-part

series on the judiciary and we're going

to look at just the constitutional


of the judicial branch so here we go um

the constitution really doesn't say that

much i'm going to show you the words

real quick and then we're going to

actually look at them

section one section two done

that's it that's all there is in the

constitution about the entire judicial


so let's look at each section real

quickly and just kind of understand

what were they getting at the judicial

power of the united states shall be

vested in

one supreme court and in such inferior

courts as the congress may estab

made from time to time ordained and

established pause what does that mean

it says there's one supreme court right

so there we get that does it tell us how

many justices

does it tell us exactly what cases

they're gonna hear it does not

um then in such inferior courts is

congress may from time to time ordain

and establish

does it tell us how many does it tell us

where they're going to be does it

tell us how many judges does it tell us

how many layers

it does not um then it goes on to just

describe the judges so you can see that

the number of judges the number of

courts has been left

wide open for congress to figure out by

themselves then

the judges both of the supreme and

inferior courts

shall hold their offices during good

behavior and shall its stated times


receive for their services a


which shall not be diminished during

their continuance in office

so again we have something really

interesting happening here

does it give them a term limit no

does it say how long their term is no

does it say how old they have to be no

how long they had to be a citizen what

state they had to reside in

no no it says nothing

okay so it's wide open this is not like

anything we've seen in article one or

article two

it goes on section two

and this is where it maybe gets a little

boring but i i think it's all really


obviously it's important it wouldn't be

in the constitution judicial power shall

extend to all cases

arising under this constitution the laws

of the united states and treaties made

to all cases affecting ambassadors other

public ministers

and councils to all cases of admiralty

in maritime jurisdiction

to controversies to which the united

states shall be a party to controversies


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 what does all that mean

those are all federal laws

okay so anything that's federal law gets


in a federal court anything that deals

with a person from one state and a

person from another state

or people arguing about anything outside

of their state

is automatically a federal jurisdiction


next bullet point in cases affecting


other public ministers and consuls and

those in which a state shall be a party

the supreme court shall have original


in all other cases before mentioned the

supreme court shall have appellate or

appeals jurisdiction with such

exceptions and under such regulations as

congress shall make

well look at that little part there it

says congress can decide

what cases they're going to hear at the

supreme court but it does say that the

supreme court

will get appeals jurisdiction over all


unless congress tells them no

checks and balances my friends so

let's go back to one of the first things

we talked about lifetime

tenure it doesn't say anywhere in there

how long the term for a supreme court


an appeals court justice or a federal

judge is

and what that has been interpreted as is


tenure all federal judges serve for the

rest of their lives

or as long as they want they can retire

at any point

most will eventually but they don't

until they're good and old

uh because why would you if you've got a

guaranteed job

so federal judges serve life


if they're in good behavior why

why did they choose a president for four


a congress for two years a senate for

six years

but a supreme court appeals court

federal court forever why did they

choose do this let's look at the two


because i think they're pretty good

reasons number one

it was supposed to guarantee an

independent judiciary

judges don't have to do the popular

thing to get reelected

a president if he or she wants to get

reelected has to do things that are

pretty popular

a congress person absolutely has to do

things that are popular

if they're going to get reelected what

they decided with our judges

is that interpreting the law is too

important to leave to a doggone

popularity contest what we want are

people who go

into the courts and make the right


based on what the law is supreme court

chief justice john roberts

when he was confirmed back in the 2000s

said my job is like an

umpire in a baseball game i call balls

and strikes

i don't make up the strike zone i don't

i don't care which team is up there

i call the balls and strikes as i see

him and robert's description

is exactly what we want out of supreme

court justices

and all other federal judges we don't

want them making up the law

we don't want them favoring one side or

the other though some of them do which

we'll talk about later

we want them calling balls and strikes

so how do you do that how do you get

judges who are going to call balls and

strikes you give them a lifetime job

and you say this job is yours for the

rest of your life

if you promise to behave yourself and

interpret the law

the way it's written not the way you

think it ought to be

um second consistency and this is again

something that's changed very recently

but one of the other big reasons for a

lifetime tenure

was to have consistency we don't want a

situation where

all of a sudden five judges on the

supreme court are getting replaced

by a whole bunch of people who are the

same and everything about the law

changes having a lot of supreme court


change over in a short period of time is

a recipe for disaster historically

very few good things come out of that

because everything about the

underpinnings of the law can change

and our entire system is based on the

idea that

things are going to stay about the same

things are going to

slowly move remember how we talked about

a slow deliberative process

with the congress we talked about the

presidency being a deliberately slowed

down office

this is one of the things that's

supposed to deliberately slow down the

judicial branch is the idea that

no one person is just going to replace a

bunch of judges at once

this is one of the underpinnings of our

constitutional system

so we talked about three different types

of courts

um the constitutional courts the courts

that are set up under article three

um george washington kind of establishes

them with a judiciary act early in his

administration um we have u.s district


okay so this is level one and if we're

looking at a pyramid

this is the broad base of the pyramid

going up to the top which is the supreme


so there are 94 u.s district courts

one of them is the one that you saw at

the beginning of the video that's right

in downtown toledo

no matter what high school you're at

that courthouse is no more than 20

minutes from wherever you're watching

this video right now

unless you're out of state for some

reason um

there are 93 other us district courts

all over the united states and there's

one over in cleveland one in cincinnati

so on and so forth there are district

courts all over the place what do they

do in those places

well they hear federal federal crimes

and federal lawsuits so a federal crime

is typically a violation of federal law

so if you break federal election law

then that's going to go to a federal

court if you

um kidnap somebody in michigan and bring

them into ohio

by crossing a line that's a federal

crime if you steal

mail that's a federal crime that goes

right to that federal courthouse it

doesn't go to the lucas county

courthouse those

judges that we elect at the county level

they never see you

a federal judge does so federal crimes

federal lawsuits if you sue somebody

from another state

that goes to the federal court if

somebody from another state sues you

it's a federal court so federal crimes

and federal

lawsuits if you file a

gender discrimination uh lawsuit

under u.s law that would go to a federal

crime or any other kind of civil rights

laws lawsuits under federal law

would go through the federal courthouse

in toledo now next one

we actually get these in toledo not

every district court does

and i love these maritime suits

so any kind of lawsuits dealing with

stuff that happens on the high seas

goes to a federal court we in toledo


navigable water so we kind of have high


in toledo going out into lake erie

because those ships that come into

the ports up by the i-75 bridge and the

ports out by

uh woodward and the coast guard station

and and the big tower on the east side

all those ships that come through toledo

they're not they're not just in ohio

right they're going through

um us waters they're going

uh from state to state many times from

country to country continent to


um maritime suits go to the federal

courthouse which i think is super cool

because i frankly think

any judge who is going to hear a

maritime suit should probably have to


uh a captain's hat like this the entire

time uh maybe we're not gonna go with

the whole british wig

but we darn well ought to go with the

captain's hat if you're gonna hear

maritime lawsuits

okay so the main thing that they hear in

the federal courthouse

is typically bankruptcy cases bankruptcy


a federal law okay and bankruptcy allows

you to

clear out your debts and then in return

you go like 10 years where you have

really bad credit

um bankruptcy is a really really useful

thing in a democracy

in any kind of capitalist democratic


you need to have something like

bankruptcy law to deal

with situations that are otherwise


um and bankruptcies are the bulk of the

business that u.s district courts do

including in toledo mo they do so many

bankruptcy cases

that they don't do all of them at the

courthouse they do a lot of them in

offices sprinkled around the downtown


okay above the district courts district

course are the bottom period

pyramid uh next part of the pyramid is

the u.s courts of appeals now there are

only 13 of these so you had 94 of those

district courts now

you've got 13 courts of appeals that are

sometimes called the circuit courts

and circuit courts basically only hear

appeals from the u.s district courts so


a decision from the u.s district court

somebody doesn't agree with it

they appeal it on a legal basis to the

next level it doesn't go to the supreme

court it goes to these regional courts

of appeals

again all the judges of the courts of

appeals are picked

by presidents of the united states

confirmed by the senate

finally you've got the supreme court at

the top and the supreme court

what do they hear it's a little

complicated um

and we'll get to that later next you've

got legislative courts and there aren't

many of these

there's nothing you get tested on but i

want to talk about them real quick

legislative courts are different from

constitutional courts legislative courts


created for really small peculiar weird

individual reasons

so we have securities arbitration court

in the united states

with a judge who hears cases dealing


like stock excuse me stocks and bonds

and people have disagreements about them

court of veterans appeals is a

legislative court that exists separate


the constitutional court system

territorial courts that hear things from

puerto rico guam um tinian

saipan uh american samoa

they those territorial courts exist

separately from

the rest of the constitutional court

system as well so i just wanted to

mention them real quickly

where did the court's power come from

well this is pretty interesting uh it's

a case

called marbury versus madison and the

madison here is somebody you've heard of

it's james madison

um in 1789 the judiciary act

that george washington signed gave the

supreme court the power

to force the executive branch to comply

with court orders

so it established a bunch of courts it

established procedures for

how many judges there were going to be

in certain places and then it also said

um the supreme court has the power to

force the executive branch to do stuff

that's going to be an important plot

point in just a little bit here

um what happens in the case of marbury

versus madison

that law is the background here's the

case um

john adams got beat like a cheap drum

in the election of 1796.

i'm sorry in the election of 1800 um

and adams wanted revenge okay this is

the first

like two-party election in american

history adams is running against thomas

jefferson adams is a federalist

jefferson is now what we call a

democratic republican

jefferson wants states rights adams is


federal power um and jefferson beats

adams and adams is

ticked and there's a whole backstory

between these two dudes

they were thicker than thieves during

the revolution and then they just get

angrier and angrier with each other

while adams is president they spend the


couple of decades super angry at each


and then they kind of resolve things

just before they die in the 1820s

which is a sweet ending to the story

right so

adam's got beat down by jefferson he

wants revenge part of his revenge

how long do judges serve

exactly right they serve for life so if

you really want to screw the next


you load up the court with a bunch of

your judges who believe in your point of


is this what president should do

absolutely not

this is absolutely against what we

believe in but

adams does it anyways throws in a bunch

of people who agree with him

are going to advance his point of view

as a big blank you

to tom jefferson now here's the problem

he doesn't actually have the judge's

commissions delivered

the commission is a piece of paper that

basically says

i hereby make you a judge okay

now the judges that the commissions are

left on the desk of the secretary of

state who was

um um uh john marshall

at this point um the

judges don't get their commission

president jefferson takes over

his secretary of state is james madison

madison has all these

commissions sitting on his desk like

he's gonna deliver him and he's like

delivering those they're not judges i

don't have to deliver those

um one of the dudes who's a midnight


uh is by the last name of marbury and i

always want to say it's stephon marbury

the basketball player but it is not

um one of the midnight judges sues the

secretary of state james madison to get

his job

he says i became a judge the minute they

put my name

on that piece of paper i'm a federal

judge um

and the case goes to the supreme court

it's it's a citizen marbury suing the

federal government

goes to the supreme court and the chief

justice of the supreme court at this


is none other than the guy who didn't

deliver the commission in the first

place john marshall

so marshall has to hear a case in which

he is

sort of involved so marshall has a big

problem here

if he rules in favor of marbury he's a


and everybody's be like see he just did

this because politics

he just picked the guy who's on his team


if he rules in favor of madison

everybody from

his old federalist party you're just a

traitor to the party

you don't care about us at all it it's

almost like he's in a situation where no

matter how he rules in this case he's

going to get in trouble

so marshall we don't call him the

greatest chief justice in history for

nothing folks

um marshall splits the difference he


i'm not ruling in favor of anybody i'm

looking back

at that law the 1789 judiciary act

that said the president can be forced to

do things

by the court and he declares that the

judiciary act

itself was unconstitutional um

this decision more or less made

everybody happy marbury wasn't happy i

guarantee you

but more or less marshall's decision in

saying that you just react is

unconstitutional therefore they can't be

judges blah blah blah blah blah

it more or less solves this insoluble


um now what did it also do

the really important thing that marbury

vs madison did it created the power of

the supreme court

nowhere in the constitution you guys

read article 3 with me

nowhere in there does it say the supreme

court gets to decide if things are

constitutional or not

it doesn't say that in there and yet

that's exactly what justice marshall

did he said we get to decide if things

are constitutional or not

we call that judicial review underline

it write it down

put it in big letters judicial review

it's one of the foundations of american

democracy now

that the judicial branch does get to

review the actions as the president does

get to review the

actions of the legislature and decide if

what they're doing is

constitutional it's a big deal article 3

defines the judicial powers marbury

versus madison

really gives it teeth so those are the

two big things to kind of get out of


intro to the judiciary thank you guys so


for hanging in there with me in our next

video we'll look at judiciary part two

legitimacy of the judicial branch as