Nebraska Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Nebraska Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

U.S. Constitution Overview
The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the United States, outlining the framework for the federal government and the relationship between the federal government and the states, as well as between the states themselves. Key concepts include the separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and the Bill of Rights.

Judicial Review
Marbury v. Madison (1803) established the principle of judicial review, allowing the Supreme Court to declare laws unconstitutional.
IRAC: The issue was whether the Supreme Court could issue a writ of mandamus. The rule is the Constitution is the supreme law, and conflicting statutes are invalid. The analysis showed that while Marbury had a right to his commission, the Court did not have the power to issue the writ. The conclusion was that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional.

Separation of Powers
– The Constitution divides the federal government into three branches (legislative, executive, judicial) and outlines their distinct powers and responsibilities to prevent any one branch from gaining too much power.

Checks and Balances
– Each branch of government has certain powers to limit or check the other branches and to prevent any one branch from exercising too much power.

– Federalism is the division of power between the federal government and the states. The Tenth Amendment reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states or the people.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) clarified federal supremacy and implied powers.
IRAC: The issue was whether Congress had the authority to establish a national bank and whether a state could tax that bank. The rule was the Necessary and Proper Clause permits Congress to take actions not explicitly enumerated if they are in pursuit of its constitutionally enumerated powers. The analysis showed the bank was a lawful instrument of Congress, and states could not tax it as it would interfere with federal powers. The conclusion was that Congress had the implied power to create the bank and states could not tax it.

Commerce Clause
– The Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with Indian Tribes.
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) expanded federal power over interstate commerce.
IRAC: The issue was whether New York could grant a monopoly to a steamboat operator in waters of interstate commerce. The rule is that the Commerce Clause gives Congress exclusive power over interstate commerce. The analysis determined that navigation was a form of commerce, and the New York monopoly conflicted with federal law. The conclusion was that the federal law took precedence and the New York law was invalid.

Bill of Rights
– The first ten amendments to the Constitution protect individual liberties and rights against governmental infringement, including freedom of speech, religion, and press; the right to bear arms; protections in criminal procedures; and more.

Fourteenth Amendment
Equal Protection Clause: Requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons within their jurisdiction.
Due Process Clause: Prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Incorporation Doctrine: Through the Due Process Clause, most Bill of Rights protections have been made applicable to the states.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ended racial segregation in public schools.
IRAC: The issue was whether separate but equal school facilities for black and white students were constitutional. The rule was that separate but equal facilities were inherently unequal under the Equal Protection Clause. The analysis showed that segregated schools stigmatized black children and deprived them of equal protection. The conclusion was that racial segregation in public education violated the Equal Protection Clause.

First Amendment
– Protects freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices (Free Exercise Clause).
Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) established the standard for speech that incites illegal action.
IRAC: The issue was whether the state could criminalize advocacy for illegal action. The rule is that the government cannot infringe upon speech unless it is directed to incite imminent lawless action and is likely to produce such action. The analysis found that Brandenburg’s speech did not satisfy these conditions. The conclusion was that the Ohio law was unconstitutional as applied to Brandenburg’s speech.

Right to Privacy
– Although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the right to privacy has been inferred from various amendments.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) recognized a constitutional right to privacy in marital relations.
IRAC: The issue was whether Connecticut could criminalize the use of contraceptives by married couples. The rule developed was that various constitutional provisions imply a right to privacy. The analysis found that the law violated the right to marital privacy. The conclusion was that the Connecticut statute was unconstitutional.

Nebraska-Specific Constitutional Law
– Nebraska’s Constitution mirrors the U.S. Constitution in many respects but includes provisions unique to the state, such as a unicameral legislature.

Preparation for Final Examination
Students should review their notes, case briefs, and supplementary materials, and focus on understanding how constitutional principles apply to various legal scenarios. Practice analyzing fact patterns using the IRAC method and apply constitutional doctrines to new sets of facts. Engage in discussions, form study groups, and take practice exams to test your knowledge and application skills.

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