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Constitutional Origins of the Federal Judiciary: Suggested Discussion Questions

1. One of the recurring debates in the Federal Convention concerned the power to appoint federal judges to their lifetime positions. How might the judiciary have developed differently if the Constitution had granted either the President or the Congress exclusive authority to appoint judges?
(See document II in accompanying Historical Documents.)

2. The Council of Revision proposed by James Madison would have given federal judges and the President a joint role in approving or vetoing acts of Congress before they went into effect. How would the Council of Revision have altered the checks and balances in the federal government? What effect would the Council of Revision have had on the independence of the federal judiciary?
(See document III in accompanying Historical Documents.)

3. In a constitutional government based on popular sovereignty, what role does the judiciary play in protecting the will of the people?

4. No court system in the states, the colonies, or Great Britain had been as independent of the other branches of government as was the judiciary outlined in Article III of the Constitution. How did the Constitution protect the independence of federal judges? Why did the framers of the Constitution think this independence was necessary?

5. Anti-Federalists feared that the establishment of a federal judiciary, with federal trial courts in all the states, would lead to the elimination of state courts. Federalists, on the other hand, argued that a system of federal trial courts with broad jurisdiction was necessary to guarantee the equal rights of all citizens, regardless of state residence. How did the federal court system established by the Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789 balance the need for a uniform, national court system with a regard for the state judiciaries?

6. During the ratification debates, the most widespread criticism of the judicial system outlined by the proposed Constitution was that it would not protect the traditional rights to a jury trial. Why was the jury trial considered so important? How could the Constitution be amended to protect the juries' role in the federal courts?