New Jersey Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law
I. Introduction to Constitutional Law
Constitutional law concerns itself with interpreting and applying the U.S. Constitution. As a 1L law student, you will need to understand the structure of the Constitution, the various powers it grants to the different branches of government, and the fundamental rights it protects.
II. The Structure of the Constitution
– Understand the layout of the Constitution: the Preamble, seven original Articles, and subsequent Amendments.
– Article I creates the Legislative Branch, Article II the Executive Branch, and Article III the Judicial Branch.
– Note the specific powers granted and the concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers.
III. Judicial Review
– Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803): Established the principle of judicial review, the power of the federal courts to declare legislative and executive acts unconstitutional.
– IRAC for Marbury v. Madison:
– Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the authority to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the delivery of commission as part of its original jurisdiction.
– Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and it is the duty of the judicial branch to interpret the law.
– Analysis: The Court held that while Marbury had a right to his commission, the provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that enabled him to bring his claim to the Supreme Court was unconstitutional because it extended the Court’s original jurisdiction beyond what was specified in Article III of the Constitution.
– Conclusion: The Supreme Court does not have the authority to issue the writ because the law that would allow such an action was unconstitutional.
– Understand the concept of federalism and the division of powers between the federal government and the states.
– McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819): Addressed the scope of Congress’s legislative power and how it relates to the powers of American state legislatures.
– IRAC for McCulloch v. Maryland:
– Issue: Whether Congress has the power to incorporate a national bank and whether the State of Maryland has the power to tax that bank.
– Rule: The Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution provides Congress with the authority to enact laws that are “necessary and proper” for executing its specified powers.
– Analysis: The Court held that Congress had the power to incorporate the bank and that Maryland could not tax it, as doing so would interfere with a federal instrumentality.
– Conclusion: The federal law creating the bank was constitutional, and the Maryland tax was not.
V. The Separation of Powers
– Study the three branches of government and their interactions.
– Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952): Concerned the limits of the President’s executive power.
– IRAC for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer:
– Issue: Whether the President has the authority to seize and operate the 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: The Court found no Congressional statute that authorized the President to take possession of private property. The President’s military power as Commander in Chief was also deemed insufficient to justify his action.
– Conclusion: The seizure was unconstitutional because it was not authorized by Congress nor by the Constitution.
VI. The Commerce Clause
– Understand the extent of Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce.
– Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824): Clarified the scope of Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause.
– IRAC for Gibbons v. Ogden:
– Issue: Whether the State of New York could grant a monopoly to a steamboat operator when this conflicted with a federal law regulating coastal commerce.
– Rule: The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states.
– Analysis: The Court held that the New York monopoly conflicted with federal law because regulating interstate navigation was a form of commerce that fell under the purview of Congress.
– Conclusion: The federal law took precedence over the New York law under the Supremacy Clause.
VII. The Necessary and Proper Clause
– Understand how this clause grants Congress the power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution its powers.
– McCulloch v. Maryland (refer to earlier section).
VIII. Individual Rights and the Bill of Rights
– Study the first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.
– Focus on the scope and limitations of individual rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bear arms.
IX. The Fourteenth Amendment
– Understand the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Incorporation Doctrine, which applies the Bill of Rights to the states.
– Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954): Challenged the doctrine of “separate but equal” and addressed racial segregation in schools.
– IRAC for Brown v. Board of Education:
– Issue: Whether state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students deny the black students equal educational opportunities.
– Rule: The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.
– Analysis: The Court held that “separate but equal” facilities are inherently unequal and violative of the Equal Protection Clause.
– Conclusion: Racial segregation in public education has a detrimental effect on minority children and is unconstitutional.
X. Limitations on State Powers
– Study the limitations imposed on states by various constitutional provisions, such as the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Dormant Commerce Clause doctrine: Understand how state laws that impact interstate commerce can be struck down even in the absence of federal legislation.
XI. Fundamental Rights
– Study the concept of fundamental rights under the Due Process Clause.
– Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973): Addressed a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
– IRAC for Roe v. Wade:
– Issue: Whether the Texas statute criminalizing abortion violates a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.
– Rule: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.
– Analysis: The Court balanced a woman’s right to privacy with the state’s interests in regulating abortions and protecting prenatal life, establishing a trimester framework to guide legal restrictions on abortion.
– Conclusion: The Texas statute was unconstitutional as it violated the fundamental right to privacy.
XII. New Jersey-Specific Constitutional Law Considerations
– Understand notable New Jersey Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted the U.S. Constitution or the New Jersey State Constitution, particularly in areas where New Jersey may provide more expansive rights than federal law.
– State v. Hunt, 91 N.J. 338 (1982): Addressed the admissibility of evidence obtained through a warrantless search.
– The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the New Jersey Constitution provides a greater expectation of privacy than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and established a state-level exclusionary rule.
This study guide outlines the fundamental concepts and cases in Constitutional Law that a 1L student at a New Jersey law school should understand. Reviewing these cases, understanding the underlying principles, and examining how New Jersey law interacts with federal constitutional provisions will be essential for exam preparation. Remember to analyze issues with a focus on both federal and New Jersey jurisprudence.