Louisiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Louisiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to U.S. Constitution

  • Historical Context: Understand the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention, and the Federalist Papers.
  • Structure: Familiarize with the Preamble, seven articles, and 27 amendments.
  • Principles: Separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, judicial review, and individual rights.
  • Supremacy Clause: Article VI establishes federal law as the supreme law of the land.

II. Judicial Review

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review, where courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes, and some government actions that violate the Constitution.
  • IRAC: Issue – Can the Supreme Court issue writs of mandamus? Rule – Constitution is the supreme law, and when there is a conflict, the court must follow the Constitution. Analysis – The Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution. Conclusion – The Supreme Court has the authority to review acts of Congress and declare them unconstitutional.

III. Separation of Powers

  • Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): Limits presidential power; President cannot seize private property without express statutory authorization.
  • IRAC: Issue – Does the President have the power to seize private property without Congressional approval? Rule – Presidential powers must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself. Analysis – President Truman’s order lacked statutory authority. Conclusion – The seizure was unconstitutional.

IV. Federalism

  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Federal government has implied powers; states cannot impede valid constitutional exercises of power by the Federal government.
  • IRAC: Issue – Can a state tax a federal institution? Rule – The Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress implied powers. Analysis – Maryland’s tax on the federal bank was an attempt to impede a constitutional exercise of power. Conclusion – The state tax was unconstitutional.

V. Commerce Clause

  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broad definition of commerce and assertion of federal power over interstate commerce.
  • Wickard v. Filburn (1942): Expanded the Commerce Clause to regulate local activities if they have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
  • United States v. Lopez (1995): Established limits to the Commerce Clause; possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity that has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

VI. The Tenth Amendment

  • Reserves powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, to the States respectively, or to the people.

VII. The Eleventh Amendment and State Sovereignty

  • Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (1996): Reinforced state sovereign immunity, limiting the applicability of federal laws to state governments in certain instances.

VIII. Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment

  • Incorporation Doctrine: Selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states.
  • Due Process: Substantive due process (right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut) and procedural due process (rights in legal proceedings).
  • Equal Protection: Standards of review (strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and rational basis test), and landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which ended racial segregation in public schools.

IX. First Amendment Freedoms

  • Freedom of Speech: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) – speech advocating illegal conduct is protected under the First Amendment unless it incites imminent lawless action.
  • Freedom of Religion: Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause; Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) established the Lemon test for legislation concerning religion.

X. Second Amendment

  • District of Columbia v. Heller (2008): The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.

XI. Fourth Amendment Rights

  • Search and Seizure: Katz v. United States (1967) – the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places, introducing the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test.

XII. The Fourteenth Amendment and the Right to Privacy

  • Roe v. Wade (1973): Right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

XIII. Louisiana Constitution

  • Understand the specific provisions and distinct legal traditions of the Louisiana Constitution, which may differ from federal interpretations, including its civil law tradition.

XIV. Critical Case Analysis and Synthesis

  • Practice synthesizing multiple cases on a single issue to understand the evolution of law and the interplay of different legal principles.
  • Develop case briefing skills using the IRAC method to analyze and understand the importance of each case.

XV. Exam Preparation

  • Review past exams for structure and types of questions.
  • Form study groups to discuss and debate issues.
  • Create outlines to summarize key concepts, cases, and legal principles.

As you prepare for your final semester exam, focus on understanding the interconnection between these constitutional concepts and the overarching framework of American jurisprudence. Pay close attention to Louisiana’s unique constitutional provisions and how they interact with federal law.

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