The Constitution And The Federal Court System
Article III of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch as one of the three separate and distinct branches of the federal government. The other two are the legislative (Congress) and the executive (the President) branches. Federal courts are the guardians of the Constitution because their rulings protect the rights and liberties of all men and women as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Through fair and impartial judgments, federal court judges must interpret and apply the law to the facts of each case in order to resolve disputes. Federal courts do not make the laws. That is the role of Congress. Federal courts do not enforce the laws. This is the role of the President and the many executive branch departments and agencies (like the United States Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Food and Drug Administration).
Federal judges must be independent and not subject to partisan whims, popular passion, political influence or emotional leanings. In order to ensure this our nation’s Founding Fathers did two things: 1) federal judges are appointed for life and may only be removed from the bench by the congressional impeachment process, and 2) the salaries of federal judges may not be lessened by any other branch of government.
Federal courts are open to the public with limited exceptions that most federal judges take very seriously. Any person may observe court proceedings on any given day in any federal courthouse in our nation. However, television and radio coverage of a court proceeding is not allowed in federal court. Any person may also access documents in any case with limited exceptions by appearing in person at the clerk of the court’s office in any federal court or by accessing the same online from a computer. The goal is to conduct the judicial work of each court in public view to enhance public confidence in our system. Exceptions to the public record doctrine are those cases involving juveniles, confidential informants or certain other documents that are sensitive in nature. The overriding goal, however, is to keep everything open for the public to see and view.