Georgia Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Georgia Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to Constitutional Law
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land, taking precedence over all other laws. It establishes the national frame of government and enumerates specific powers and rights. Constitutional law in the United States encompasses the interpretation and implementation of this document.

II. The Structure of the Constitution
– Preamble: States the purpose of the Constitution.
– Articles I-III: Establish the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial).
– Article IV: Addresses the states’ powers and limits, as well as federalism.
– Article V: Outlines the process for amending the Constitution.
– Article VI: Contains the Supremacy Clause.
– Article VII: Details the process for ratification.

III. Judicial Review
Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the power of judicial review. (IRAC: Issue – Can the Supreme Court declare an act of Congress invalid? Rule – The Constitution is the supreme law. Analysis – The Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution. Conclusion – The act is invalid, and the Court can review legislation.)
Georgia v. Stanton (1867): Reaffirmed federal courts’ power to interpret the Constitution, but also recognized limitations on their power to intervene in state affairs.

IV. Federalism
– The Enumeration of Powers: The Constitution grants certain powers to the federal government while reserving the remainder for the states.
– The 10th Amendment: Reinforces the principle of federalism by stating that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Confirmed the supremacy of federal laws over state laws and endorsed the implied powers of Congress. (IRAC: Issue – Can a state tax a federal institution? Rule – The Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress implied powers. Analysis – Maryland cannot tax the national bank. Conclusion – Federal laws have supremacy.)

V. Separation of Powers
– Three branches of government with distinct powers and checks and balances.
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): The President’s executive power has limits, especially without Congressional approval. (IRAC: Issue – Can the President seize private property without Congressional authorization? Rule – Executive power is subject to constitutional limits. Analysis – The seizure was not authorized by Congress or the Constitution. Conclusion – The President acted beyond his constitutional powers.)

VI. Commerce Clause
– Gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broad interpretation of the commerce clause, allowing federal regulation of interstate activities. (IRAC: Issue – Can New York grant a monopoly on waterway commerce? Rule – The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. Analysis – The monopoly interfered with interstate commerce. Conclusion – The New York law was unconstitutional.)
Wickard v. Filburn (1942): Federal government can regulate even intrastate activities if they have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

VII. State Powers and Limitations
– The Supremacy Clause: Federal laws take precedence over conflicting state laws.
Preemption Doctrine: Federal law can preclude or override state legislation in certain areas.
Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985): Illustrates the ongoing balancing of power between the federal government and the states.

VIII. The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment
– Individual liberties protected against government infringement.
Barron v. Baltimore (1833): Initially, the Bill of Rights was only applicable to the federal government, not the states.
Gitlow v. New York (1925): Began the process of “incorporation,” applying the Bill of Rights to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment (IRAC: Issue – Does the First Amendment apply to the states? Rule – The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates federal rights. Analysis – Gitlow’s First Amendment rights were violated. Conclusion – The First Amendment is applicable to the states.)

IX. Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
– Requires states to provide equal protection under the law.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Overturned “separate but equal” doctrine, initiating desegregation. (IRAC: Issue – Is segregation in public schools constitutional? Rule – The Equal Protection Clause prohibits discriminatory practices. Analysis – Segregation by law implies inferiority. Conclusion – Segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.)
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): Initially upheld “separate but equal,” later overturned by Brown.

X. Substantive Due Process
– Protects individual liberties from unjust government interference.
Lochner v. New York (1905): Struck down a state law regulating working hours, based on a right to contract. (IRAC: Issue – Does a state law limiting bakers’ work hours violate the Fourteenth Amendment? Rule – The Due Process Clause protects the right to contract. Analysis – The law interfered with the right to contract. Conclusion – The law was unconstitutional.)
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Recognized a right to privacy within the penumbras of the Bill of Rights.

XI. First Amendment Freedoms
Schenck v. United States (1919): Established the “clear and present danger” test for free speech.
Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969): Set the standard that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected unless it incites imminent lawless action.

XII. Studying Georgia-Specific Constitutional Law
– Georgia State Constitution: Similar to the U.S. Constitution but with its own amendments and provisions.
– Georgia’s judicial decisions may interpret the U.S. Constitution in cases that come before the state’s courts, but they must also adhere to federal interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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