Kentucky Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Kentucky Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Constitutional law is a vast field that encompasses various principles, doctrines, and case laws interpreting the U.S. Constitution. This guide will help you prepare for your final exam by covering the key topics, cases, and specific nuances of Kentucky constitutional law.

I. Understanding of the Constitution
– The U.S. Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land: foundational legal document establishing the framework of the federal government and delineating the powers of its three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial).
– Article VI, Clause 2 (Supremacy Clause): establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority constitute the supreme law of the land.
– Bill of Rights: the first ten amendments to the Constitution that guarantee essential rights and liberties.

II. 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 has the authority to issue writs of mandamus.
– Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law, and it is the duty of the courts to interpret it.
– Analysis: The Court held that they have the power to declare legislation unconstitutional.
– Conclusion: The Supreme Court has the power of judicial review.

III. Separation of Powers & Checks and Balances
– Federalist No. 51: Advocates for separation of powers and checks and balances to protect against tyranny.
– Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): Limited the executive power by ruling against President Truman’s seizure of steel mills during the Korean War.
– Issue: Whether the President has the power to seize private industry in the interest of national defense without Congressional authorization.
– Rule: The President’s power must stem from an act of Congress or the Constitution.
– Analysis: The President overstepped the boundaries as there was no statute that expressly authorized such an act.
– Conclusion: The seizure was unconstitutional.

IV. Federalism
– Federalism: the division of power between the federal government and the states.
– Kentucky v. Dennison (1861): A case where the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal courts could not compel states to act in issues of extradition.
– Issue: Whether the federal government can compel a governor to extradite a fugitive.
– Rule: The Constitution recognizes extradition as a duty, but it is not compellable by the federal judiciary.
– Analysis: The Constitution does not grant the power to enforce extradition upon the federal courts.
– Conclusion: The rendition duty of a governor is a matter of federal honor, not of legal compulsion.

V. Congress’s 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.
– Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause, allowing federal control over interstate commerce.
– Issue: The scope of Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause.
– Rule: The Commerce Clause encompasses all forms of commercial activity.
– Analysis: The Court found that navigation is a form of commerce.
– Conclusion: The federal government has the authority to regulate interstate navigation.

VI. The Executive Branch
– Powers of the President: As outlined in Article II of the Constitution, include acting as the commander-in-chief, granting reprieves and pardons, and making treaties (with the advice and consent of the Senate).
– Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): (as mentioned above)

VII. Individual Rights
– First Amendment: Protects freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.
– Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969): Established the standard that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected under the First Amendment unless it is likely to incite imminent lawless action.
– Issue: Whether the state law prohibiting public speech that advocates various illegal activities violates the speaker’s First Amendment rights.
– Rule: The First Amendment protects speech unless it incites imminent lawless action.
– Analysis: Brandenburg’s speech did not seek to incite or produce imminent lawless action.
– Conclusion: The Ohio law violated the First Amendment.
– Kentucky specific: In Kentucky, the state constitution also provides protections for individual rights that can be more expansive than those at the federal level.

VIII. Equal Protection and Due Process
– 14th Amendment: Prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
– Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Held that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.
– Issue: Whether segregation of public education based solely on race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Rule: Separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal in the context of public education.
– Analysis: The segregation of public schools based on race instills a sense of inferiority that has detrimental effects on the education and personal growth of African American children.
– Conclusion: The doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place in public education; segregated schools are unconstitutional.

IX. The Incorporation Doctrine
– Selective incorporation: a constitutional doctrine whereby selected provisions of the Bill of Rights are made applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Gitlow v. New York (1925): First case to hold that states are not completely free to limit forms of political expression protected by the First Amendment.
– Issue: Whether the First Amendment applies to the states.
– Rule: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends the reach of certain constitutional protections to the states.
– Analysis: The Court held that freedom of speech and press, which are fundamental personal rights, are protected by the Due Process Clause from impairment by the states.
– Conclusion: The First Amendment applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

X. Right to Privacy
– Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Recognized the right to privacy implied by the Bill of Rights.
– Issue: Whether the Constitution protects the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on contraception.
– Rule: The Bill of Rights creates a right to privacy that protects citizens from unwarranted governmental intrusion.
– Analysis: The Court found that the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create zones of privacy.
– Conclusion: The Connecticut statute criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.

Remember to review specific Kentucky cases, state constitutional provisions, and statutory laws that may provide for broader rights than those provided by the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, pay particular attention to how federal constitutional principles are applied or interpreted differently in Kentucky. Good luck with your studies and exam preparations!

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