Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

U.S. Constitution Overview

  • Structure of the Constitution: Familiarize yourself with the preamble, seven articles, and amendments (especially the Bill of Rights—first ten amendments).
  • Supremacy Clause: Article VI, Clause 2, establishes that the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties are the supreme law of the land.
  • Separation of Powers: Understand the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another.

Judicial Review

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review, the power of the federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution.
    • Issue: Whether the Supreme Court had the authority to issue a writ of mandamus.
    • Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law, and any law repugnant to the Constitution is invalid.
    • Analysis: The Court determined it did not have the jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus.
    • Conclusion: While the Court could not grant the writ, it established its power to review acts of Congress.


  • Dual Sovereignty Doctrine: The concept that state governments and the federal government operate independently of each other, each with their own powers.
  • Commerce Clause: Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

Separation of Powers

  • Checks and Balances: Each branch of government can limit the powers of the other branches.
  • Federalist Papers: A series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the Constitution.

Fundamental Rights

  • First Amendment Rights: Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.
  • Due Process Clause: Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the government from depriving individuals of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
  • Equal Protection Clause: Fourteenth Amendment requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions.


  • Selective Incorporation: The process by which the Supreme Court has applied the Bill of Rights to the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
  • Gitlow v. New York (1925): The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the First Amendment’s provisions respecting free speech and free press to the states.

Individual Liberties

  • Freedom of Speech: Understand different types of speech (political, symbolic, etc.) and regulations (content-neutral vs. content-based).
  • Religious Freedom: Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause analysis.

Equal Protection and Discrimination

  • Levels of Scrutiny: Rational basis, intermediate scrutiny, and strict scrutiny tests used to determine the constitutionality of discriminatory laws.
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Held that racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Right to Privacy

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Recognized a constitutional right to privacy, striking down a law prohibiting contraceptives.

Indiana-Specific Considerations

  • Indiana Constitution: Familiarize yourself with the Indiana Constitution’s Bill of Rights and how it compares to the U.S. Bill of Rights.
  • Indiana Code: Understand where to find Indiana statutes and how they interact with federal law.
  • Indiana Case Law: Identify key Indiana Supreme Court cases that interpret the state constitution.

Study and Exam Preparation

  • Case Briefing: Practice briefing cases using the IRAC format.
  • Outlining: Create outlines for each major topic covered in class, summarizing key concepts, cases, and statutes.
  • Multiple-Choice Questions: Work through hypotheticals that test your understanding of the material.
  • Essay Questions: Practice writing essay responses to previous exam questions if available.
  • Review Sessions and Study Groups: Attend any review sessions offered by the professor and form study groups to discuss complex issues.

This study guide provides a framework for the key concepts and legal principles you will need to master in your Constitutional Law course. Remember to review your class notes, read the assigned cases, and consult your textbook and supplementary materials for a more detailed understanding of the subject matter. Good luck with your exam preparation!

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