Arizona Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Arizona Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to Constitutional Law

  • The Constitution: The foundation of the United States legal system; establishes the structure of government and delineates the federal government’s powers.
  • Supremacy Clause: Article VI of the Constitution establishes that federal law is the “supreme law of the land.”

II. Judicial Review

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review which allows the Supreme Court to declare laws unconstitutional.
    • Issue: Can a court declare an act of Congress unconstitutional?
    • Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
    • Analysis: The Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and determine whether they are in accordance with the Constitution.
    • Conclusion: The Court established its power to declare laws unconstitutional.

III. Separation of Powers

  • Checks and Balances: The system that ensures no single branch of government becomes too powerful.
  • Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): The Court limited presidential powers by ruling that the President could not seize private property without express statutory authority.
    • Issue: Does the President have the power to seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated or implied statutory authority?
    • Rule: The President’s power must stem from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself.
    • Analysis: President Truman’s seizure of steel mills during the Korean War was not authorized by Congress nor the Constitution.
    • Conclusion: The action was deemed unconstitutional.

IV. Federalism

  • Dual Sovereignty: The state government and the federal government operate independently of each other within their respective spheres of authority.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Confirmed the supremacy of the federal government over state governments.
    • Issue: Can a state tax a federal institution, and does the federal government have the authority to create a national bank?
    • Rule: The federal government has implied powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause.
    • Analysis: The creation of a national bank is within Congress’s powers, and states cannot tax federal institutions.
    • Conclusion: The Maryland tax on the bank was unconstitutional.

V. Congressional Powers

  • Commerce Clause: Gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).
  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broadly defined Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
    • Issue: Does Congress have sole authority to regulate interstate navigation?
    • Rule: Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce.
    • Analysis: The Commerce Clause encompasses navigation; therefore, New York cannot grant a steamboat monopoly.
    • Conclusion: The New York law was unconstitutional because it conflicted with federal law.

VI. State Powers and Limitations

  • Tenth Amendment: Reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states or the people.
  • Arizona v. United States (2012): A case involving Arizona’s immigration laws, illustrating the tensions between state and federal powers.
    • Issue: Is Arizona’s immigration policy preempted by federal law?
    • Rule: Federal law preempts state law when it conflicts or interferes with federal immigration policy.
    • Analysis: Certain provisions of the Arizona law intruded on federal prerogatives.
    • Conclusion: Parts of the Arizona law were preempted by federal law.

VII. Individual Rights

  • Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the Constitution; protects individual rights and liberties.
  • Incorporation Doctrine: The process by which the Bill of Rights has been applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

VIII. First Amendment

  • Freedom of Speech:
    • Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969): Established the imminent lawless action test for speech advocating illegal activity.
    • Freedom of Religion:
    • Establishment Clause: Prohibits the government from establishing a religion or favoring one religion over another.
    • Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971): Created the Lemon test to determine if a law violates the Establishment Clause.
    • Free Exercise Clause: Protects individuals’ rights to practice their religion without government interference.

IX. Fourteenth Amendment

  • Equal Protection Clause: Requires states to treat all individuals equally under the law.
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
    • Issue: Does the segregation of public education based solely on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
    • Rule: Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
    • Analysis: Segregation creates a sense of inferiority that affects the education and personal growth of African American children.
    • Conclusion: Segregation in public education violates the Equal Protection Clause.
  • Due Process Clause: Prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. This clause has been interpreted to include many rights as “fundamental” and therefore applicable against the states.

X. Right to Privacy

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Recognized the right to privacy within the marital relationship.
    • Issue: Does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on contraception?
    • Rule: The Bill of Rights creates “penumbras,” or zones, that establish a right to privacy.
    • Analysis: Various guarantees within the Bill of Rights imply a right to privacy that extends to marital relations.
    • Conclusion: Connecticut’s law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.

XI. Review and Exam Preparation

  • Students should review their class notes and readings, focusing on the key constitutional principles and the interplay between the various branches of government and the federal and state systems.
  • Exam practice should include issue spotting, applying the IRAC method to hypothetical scenarios, and comparing and contrasting different areas of constitutional law.
  • Understanding and being able to discuss the implications of each case and how it fits within the broader constitutional framework will be critical for success on the final exam.

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