CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS AND LEGISLATIVE COURTS The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the three levels of the federal court system in existence today. Periodically, however, Congress has exercised its power, based on Article III and Article I of the Constitution, to create other federal courts. Courts established under Article III are known as constitutional courts and those created under Article I are called legislative courts. The Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and federal district courts are constitutional courts.

 Legislative courts include the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the United States Tax Court, and the Court of Veterans Appeals. Legislative courts, unlike their constitutional counterparts, often have administrative and quasi-legislative as well as judicial duties. Another difference is that legislative courts are often created for the express purpose of helping to administer a specific congressional statute. Constitutional courts, on the other hand, are tribunals established to handle litigation. Finally, the constitutional and legislative courts vary in their degree of independence from the other two branches of government. Article III (constitutional court) 

judges serve during a period of good behavior, or what amounts to life tenure. Because Article I (legislative court) judges have no constitutional guarantee of goodbehavior tenure, Congress may set specific terms of office for them. In sum, the constitutional courts have a greater degree of independence from the other two branches of government than the legislative courts.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND STAFF SUPPORT IN THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY Although judges are the most visible actors in the judicial system, a large supporting cast is also at work. Their efforts are necessary to perform the tasks for which judges are unskilled or unsuited, or for which they simply do not have adequate time. Some members of the support team, such as law clerks, may work specifically for one judge. Others — for example, U.S. magistrate judges — are assigned to a particular court. 

Still others may be employees of an agency, such as the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, that serves the entire judicial system. U.S. Magistrate Judges In an effort to help federal district judges deal with increased workloads, Congress in 1968 created a system of magistrate judges that responds to each district court’s specific needs and circumstances. 

Magistrate judges are appointed by the judges of the district court for eight-year terms of office, although they can be removed before the expiration of the term for “good cause.” Within guidelines set by the Congress, the judges in each district court establish the duties and responsibilities of their magistrate judges. 

The legislation permits a magistrate judge, with the consent of the involved parties, to conduct all proceedings in a jury or nonjury civil matter and enter a judgment in the case and to conduct a trial of persons accused of misdemeanors (less serious offenses than felonies) committed within the district, provided the defendants consent. Because the decision to delegate responsibilities to a magistrate judge is still made by the district judge, however, a magistrate judge’s participation in the processing of cases may be more narrow than that permitted by statute

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