Florida Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law
I. The Constitution of the United States
A. Structure and Principles
- Overview of the Constitution: Begin by understanding the structure of the Constitution: the Preamble, seven original articles, and 27 amendments.
- Separation of Powers: Examine the distribution of governmental powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
- Checks and Balances: Understand how the branches of government monitor and limit each other.
B. Judicial Review
- Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review, allowing courts to declare laws unconstitutional.
- Issue: Can the Supreme Court issue writs of mandamus under the Judiciary Act of 1789?
- Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
- Analysis: When there is a conflict between the Constitution and a legislative act, the Constitution must prevail.
- Conclusion: The Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and declare them unconstitutional.
A. Powers of the Federal Government
- Enumerated Powers: Powers specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution, such as the power to regulate interstate commerce.
- Implied Powers: Powers not explicitly listed in the Constitution but derived from the Necessary and Proper Clause (McCulloch v. Maryland).
B. State Powers and the Tenth Amendment
- Police Powers: The inherent authority of states to regulate for the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.
- Tenth Amendment: Reserves powers not delegated to the federal government to the states or to the people.
C. Commerce Clause
- Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broadly interpreted the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
- Issue: Did New York overstep its authority by granting a monopoly on waterborne commerce between New York and New Jersey?
- Rule: The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
- Analysis: Navigation is a form of commerce that Congress can regulate.
- Conclusion: New York’s monopoly conflicted with federal law and was therefore invalid.
III. The Bill of Rights and Subsequent Amendments
A. Incorporation Doctrine
- Selective Incorporation: The process by which certain rights in the Bill of Rights are applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
B. First Amendment
- Freedom of Speech: Explore the extent and limits of free speech, including content-neutral vs. content-based regulations.
- Freedom of Religion: Understand the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, and the balance between them.
C. Equal Protection and Due Process
- Fourteenth Amendment: Study the clauses that guarantee equal protection and due process.
- Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Ended segregation in public schools.
- Issue: Does segregation of public education based solely on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
- Rule: Separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal and violate the Equal Protection Clause.
- Analysis: Segregation in public schools creates a sense of inferiority that affects the education and personal growth of African American children.
- Conclusion: Racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
IV. The Florida Constitution
A. Structure and Comparison to the U.S. Constitution
- Overview: Compare the Florida Constitution’s structure to the U.S. Constitution, noting the similarities and differences.
- Unique Provisions: Identify provisions that are specific to Florida, such as the strong public records and open meetings laws.
B. Florida’s Declaration of Rights
- Article I: Recognizes many of the same rights found in the U.S. Bill of Rights but also includes rights not expressly mentioned in the federal Constitution.
C. Powers of the State
- Home Rule: Florida grants significant autonomy to local governments, allowing them to pass ordinances and regulations.
V. Significant Florida Constitutional Law Cases
A. Trask v. State (2015)
- Issue: Does a local ordinance conflict with Florida’s home rule powers?
- Rule: Local ordinances must not conflict with state law.
- Analysis: Local governments have broad authority, but it is not absolute when state law expressly preempts local regulation.
- Conclusion: The ordinance was invalid because it conflicted with state law.
B. Bush v. Holmes (2006)
- Issue: Does the Florida Opportunity Scholarship Program violate the state’s constitution?
- Rule: The Florida Constitution requires a uniform system of free public schools.
- Analysis: The program, which allowed students to attend private schools at public expense, undermined the uniformity of the public school system.
- Conclusion: The program was unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution.
VI. Preparing for the Exam
- Study Tips: Create outlines of each topic, engage in study groups, and take practice exams.
- Analysis Skills: Focus on honing your ability to apply legal rules to fact patterns, as this will be essential for essay questions.
- Memorization: While understanding concepts is key, also memorize key cases, legal tests, and constitutional provisions.
By mastering these concepts, cases, and the interplay between federal and Florida constitutional law, you will be well-prepared for your 1L Constitutional Law final exam.