Tulane Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 1 (November 1995), pp. 75-135. Reprinted with the permission of the Tulane Law Review Association, which holds the copyright.


Article III of the United States Constitution sets limits on the ability of the legislature to expand or contract the jurisdiction of the federal courts. The Supreme Court has generally held that Article III's restraints on the power of the legislature to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts are few and extremely permissive. Many scholars, however, argue that Article III imposes some strong limitations on the legislature's ability to define federal jurisdiction. Strangely, both sides of the debate rely on originalist arguments. This Article argues that reliance on the Framers' intent to resolve issues of federal courts law is misguided. First, the historical material relating to the thought behind Article III is, at best, incomplete. Second, reliance on an originalist approach to interpreting Article III unnecessarily limits the constitutional debate. Third, many of the issues presently faced by the courts did not exist, or were not prominent, and therefore could not have been addressed by the drafters of Article III. Finally, much of the surviving evidence suggests that the Framers intentionally left these issues open for resolution by future generations. The Article concludes by arguing that participants in the federal courts debate should focus on creating general jurisdictional principles rather than using originalist doctrine to create all-or-nothing rules.