Nevada Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

Nevada Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to U.S. Constitution

  • Structure of the Constitution: Understanding the three branches of government (Legislative, Executive, Judicial) and their separation of powers; the system of federalism.
  • Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2): Federal law is the “supreme Law of the Land” and preempts conflicting state laws.

II. Judicial Review

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review, allowing courts to strike down laws that violate the Constitution.

IRAC for Marbury v. Madison:
Issue: Does the Supreme Court have the authority to review and strike down laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution?
Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any law that is in conflict with the Constitution is void.
Analysis: The Court held that it has the power to review acts of Congress and determine whether they are unconstitutional.
Conclusion: The establishment of judicial review enables the judiciary to invalidate laws that contravene the Constitution.

III. Federalism

  • Dual Sovereignty: The state and federal governments are separate sovereigns; each government has its own set of laws and power to enforce them.
  • Nevada State Powers: As per the Tenth Amendment, powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states.

IV. Separation of Powers

  • Checks and Balances: Each branch has certain powers that can limit the powers of the other branches to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.

V. The Legislative Branch

  • Enumerated Powers: Outlined in Article I, Section 8, including the power to tax, regulate commerce, and declare war.
  • The Commerce Clause: Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

VI. The Executive Branch

  • Presidential Powers: Includes the power to execute laws, veto legislation, command the military, and conduct foreign policy.
  • Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952): Limits on executive power; the President cannot take possession of private property without Congressional authorization.

IRAC for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer:
Issue: Does the President have the authority to seize private property without express legislative permission during an emergency?
Rule: The President’s power must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself.
Analysis: The Court found no congressional statute that authorized the President to seize private property, nor could such power be implied from his role as Commander in Chief.
Conclusion: The President’s order was deemed an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power.

VII. The Judicial Branch

  • Federal Court Jurisdiction: Authority given by Article III to hear certain types of cases.
  • Justiciability: Concepts of standing, mootness, ripeness, and political question doctrine.

VIII. Bill of Rights

  • Application to the States: Through the process of incorporation, most protections of the Bill of Rights apply to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • First Amendment Freedoms: Speech, religion, assembly, press, and petition.
  • Second Amendment: Right to bear arms.

IX. Fourteenth Amendment

  • Equal Protection Clause: States must not deny any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
  • Due Process Clause: Prohibits the states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
  • Incorporation Doctrine: Many protections of the Bill of Rights are made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

X. State Action Doctrine

  • Public Function Theory: When a private entity is performing a function traditionally exclusively done by the state, it may be subject to the Constitution.

XI. Substantive Rights and Liberties

  • Right to Privacy: Recognized in cases like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, implying a constitutional right to privacy.
  • Freedom of Speech: Balancing test for restrictions on speech, including time, place, and manner restrictions.

XII. Equal Protection

  • Levels of Scrutiny: Rational basis, intermediate scrutiny, and strict scrutiny used to evaluate the constitutionality of laws affecting protected classes.
  • Affirmative Action: Permissible under certain conditions to remedy past discrimination.

XIII. Nevada-Specific Constitutional Issues

  • Nevada Constitution: Discussion of any provisions or interpretations that are unique to Nevada.
  • Gaming Law: Recognizing the importance and influence of gaming laws in Nevada and their constitutional implications.

XIV. Key Constitutional Amendments

  • Thirteenth Amendment: Abolition of slavery.
  • Fifteenth Amendment: Right to vote shall not be denied on account of race.
  • Nineteenth Amendment: Women’s suffrage.
  • Twenty-Sixth Amendment: Right to vote for those eighteen years of age or older.

XV. Review of Landmark Cases

Each case should be reviewed using the IRAC method, noting the issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion. Important cases for review might include:

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Desegregation of public schools.
  • Loving v. Virginia (1967): Interracial marriage bans unconstitutional.
  • United States v. Windsor (2013): Federal government must recognize same-sex marriages.

To effectively prepare for your final semester exam, focus on understanding the broad concepts, study the case law in detail, and be able to apply the IRAC format to novel fact patterns. Remember that constitutional law is an evolving field, and it’s critical to stay updated on the latest rulings and how they might affect Nevada law.

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