Article III: Judicial Branch

Article III establishes the judicial branch of government and the federal court system: “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.” In accordance with this statement, Congress created the lower court system (Judiciary Act of 1789). The framers also provided that federal judges would serve lifelong terms and that their pay could not be diminished. They wanted the judiciary to be impartial and immune from political and other pressures. With that being the case, federal judges can only be removed by impeachment and conviction. This remedy has been used sparingly; only thirteen judges have been impeached and removed from office.

A notable provision of Article III is the definition and punishment for treason. Treason is defined as “giving aid and comfort” to the enemy or levying war against the United States. The framers left it to Congress to decide the punishment for treason, which Congress in turn has defined as a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of death.

How many civilians have been executed for treason or espionage?

In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg became the only American civilians to be executed for treason after they were convicted of providing atomic weapon secrets to the Soviet Union.

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