Alaska Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Alaska Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to Constitutional Law

Constitutional law deals with the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution. As a 1L, it is crucial to understand the foundational principles, such as the separation of powers, federalism, and the Bill of Rights. These principles guide the structure and limitations of government power.

II. Judicial Review

Marcy v. Madison (1803) established the concept of judicial review. The case determined that the Supreme Court holds the power to nullify an act of Congress if it is found in violation of the Constitution.

IRAC for Marcy v. Madison:
Issue: Does the Supreme Court have the authority to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional?
Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any law that is in conflict with the Constitution is void.
Analysis: The Supreme Court reasoned that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. If two laws conflict, the courts must decide on the operation of each.
Conclusion: The court established its power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution.

III. Separation of Powers

The U.S. Constitution divides government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch has distinct powers and responsibilities to prevent any one branch from gaining too much power.

IV. Federalism

Federalism is the division of power between the federal government and the states. The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states all powers not delegated to the federal government.

V. The Commerce Clause

The Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8, gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) expanded federal power to regulate interstate commerce.

IRAC for Gibbons v. Ogden:
Issue: Does the Commerce Clause give Congress authority over interstate navigation?
Rule: The Commerce Clause encompasses all forms of commercial activity that cross state lines.
Analysis: The Court found that navigation is a form of commercial activity and that Congress’s power over commerce included the power to regulate interstate navigation.
Conclusion: The decision extended federal regulatory power over interstate commerce.

VI. The Dormant Commerce Clause

The Dormant Commerce Clause refers to the prohibition, implied in the Commerce Clause, against states passing legislation that discriminates against or excessively burdens interstate commerce.

VII. Taxing and Spending Power

Article I, Section 8, also gives Congress the power to tax and spend for the general welfare. This power is broad and allows for federal funding of various programs.

VIII. The Necessary and Proper Clause

This clause, found in Article I, Section 8, grants Congress the power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution its enumerated powers.

IX. Individual Rights

The Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments outline the fundamental rights and protections afforded to individuals, including freedom of speech, religion, and the right to due process.

X. Equal Protection and Due Process

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection and due process under the law. This amendment has been the basis for much civil rights litigation.

IRAC for Brown v. Board of Education (1954):
Issue: Does segregation of public schools by race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Rule: Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and violate the Equal Protection Clause.
Analysis: The Court held that segregation instills a sense of inferiority that affects the education and personal growth of African American children.
Conclusion: The practice of segregating schools based on race was struck down.

XI. First Amendment Freedoms

The First Amendment protects freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.

XII. Right to Privacy

Although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the right to privacy has been inferred from various amendments. Key cases like Roe v. Wade (1973) and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) have recognized privacy rights in contexts such as marriage and procreation.

XIII. Alaska-Specific Constitutional Provisions

Alaska’s constitution incorporates and sometimes extends the protections found in the U.S. Constitution. Notable provisions include the right to privacy, which is explicitly stated in Article I, Section 22 of the Alaska Constitution.

XIV. Review and Application of Precedents

When studying constitutional law, it is vital to understand how to apply precedents to new fact patterns. This involves analyzing the holdings of key cases and applying their principles to hypothetical scenarios.

XV. Conclusion

In preparing for your final semester exam, focus on understanding the major cases and the constitutional principles they establish. Practice applying these principles to novel fact patterns, as this will likely be a significant component of your exam. Stay current with any recent developments that may pertain to constitutional law in the context of Alaska.

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