Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

The United States Constitution
– Overview of the Constitution: Understand the structure of the Constitution, including the Preamble, seven Articles, and 27 Amendments.
– The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2): Federal law and treaties are the supreme law of the land, trumping conflicting state laws.
– Separation of Powers: The division of government responsibilities into distinct branches to prevent 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 declare legislative and executive acts unconstitutional.
– Issue: Can the Supreme Court issue writs of mandamus under the Judiciary Act of 1789?
– Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law, and any law that is contrary to the Constitution is void.
– Analysis: The Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional as it extended the Court’s original jurisdiction beyond what was set forth in Article III of the Constitution.
– Conclusion: The Court held it lacked the authority to issue writs of mandamus.

– 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.
– Dual Federalism: The view that the federal government and the state governments are co-equals, each sovereign.
– Cooperative Federalism: The concept that the federal government and the state governments share power and policy responsibilities.

Commerce Clause
– Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broadly defined the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce as encompassing virtually every form of commercial activity.
– Issue: Does Congress have the authority to regulate navigation between states under the Commerce Clause?
– Rule: The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
– Analysis: The broad definition of commerce includes navigation; therefore, the federal license takes precedence over the state-granted monopoly.
– Conclusion: The New York law was invalidated because it interfered with the federal government’s right to regulate interstate commerce.

  • Wickard v. Filburn (1942): Expanded the Commerce Clause power to the maximum extent, ruling that even activities of purely local significance that might have a substantial effect on interstate commerce fall under Congressional authority.
    • Issue: Can Congress regulate activities that are local in nature under the Commerce Clause?
    • Rule: The Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
    • Analysis: Filburn’s wheat production, intended for personal use, impacted the overall market supply and demand, and thus had a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
    • Conclusion: The Agricultural Adjustment Act, as applied to Filburn’s activities, was constitutional.

Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances
– Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): Limited the executive power, stating the President could not seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated authority under Article II of the Constitution or statutory authority conferred on him by Congress.
– Issue: Does the President have the authority to seize and operate steel mills during a labor dispute without Congressional authorization?
– Rule: The President’s power must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself.
– Analysis: President Truman’s seizure of the steel mills was not authorized by any Congressional statute nor by any constitutional provision.
– Conclusion: The seizure was unconstitutional.

Bill of Rights
– Understand the individual rights protected by the first ten Amendments.
– Incorporation Doctrine: The process by which American courts have applied portions of the U.S. Bill of Rights to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment
– Equal Protection Clause: Requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions.
– Due Process Clause: Protects the 1st Amendment rights of the people and prevents states from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
– Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Held that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.
– Issue: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprive minority children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment?
– Rule: Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, and thus violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Analysis: Racial segregation in public education has a detrimental effect on minority children because it is interpreted as a sign of inferiority.
– Conclusion: The court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional.

First Amendment
– Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.
– Restrictions on speech, such as time, place, and manner regulations.
– The Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause concerning religion:
– Engel v. Vitale (1962): Prohibited state-sponsored recitation of prayer in public schools.
– New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964): Established the “actual malice” standard for press reports about public officials or public figures to be considered defamation or libel.

Second Amendment
– District of Columbia v. Heller (2008): Recognized an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

Right to Privacy
– Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Recognized a constitutional right to privacy emanating from several amendments that create “zones of privacy.”
– Issue: Does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on contraception?
– Rule: Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.
– Analysis: The various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create zones of privacy that protect marital relations.
– Conclusion: The Connecticut statute criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.

The Montana Constitution
– Distinct from the U.S. Constitution, it contains a Declaration of Rights with some protections broader than those in the U.S. Bill of Rights.
– The Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA): A state-specific law that reflects the strong environmental consciousness in the Montana Constitution.

This guide provides an overview of the major concepts and case law that are typically covered in a 1L Constitutional Law course. Be sure to understand the implications of these cases and how they may be interpreted under Montana law when relevant. It’s also critical to stay current with any recent rulings that may affect the interpretation of constitutional provisions. Study the facts, holding, and reasoning of each leading case, and be prepared to apply these principles to hypothetical scenarios on your final exam.

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