New Mexico Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

New Mexico Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

The Constitution of the United States


  • Structure and Contents: Preamble, seven Articles, and 27 Amendments.
  • Federalism: Division of power between the federal government and the states.
  • Supreme Law: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

The Judicial Branch (Article III)

  • Establishes the Supreme Court and permits Congress to create lower federal courts.
  • Judicial Review: The power of courts to declare laws unconstitutional, established by Marbury v. Madison (1803).

Separation of Powers

  • Three branches of government: Legislative (Article I), Executive (Article II), and Judicial (Article III).
  • Checks and Balances: Each branch has certain powers to check the other branches.

The Bill of Rights and Subsequent Amendments

First Amendment

  • Freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.
  • Notable Cases: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) – Established the imminent lawless action test for free speech restrictions.

Second Amendment

  • Right to keep and bear arms.

Fourth Amendment

  • Rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • Exclusionary Rule: Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is generally inadmissible at trial.

Fifth Amendment

  • Rights in criminal cases, including due process, self-incrimination, and double jeopardy.

Fourteenth Amendment

  • Equal Protection Clause: No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
  • Due Process Clause: Extends the Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantees to the states.

Significant Constitutional Doctrines and Concepts

Judicial Review

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the Supreme Court’s authority to review and invalidate government actions that violate the Constitution.

Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3)

  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Broad interpretation of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.

Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18)

  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Affirmed the federal government’s implied powers and upheld the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States.


  • Dual sovereignty between the state and federal governments.
  • New Mexico v. Mescalero Apache Tribe (1983): Reinforced the principle that state laws can apply to tribal lands only if Congress has clearly allowed such application.

Equal Protection and Due Process

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954): Racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.
  • Roe v. Wade (1973): The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects a woman’s right to an abortion.

First Amendment Jurisprudence

  • New Mexico-specific: The New Mexico Constitution provides broader protection of free speech than the U.S. Constitution. For instance, in City of Albuquerque v. Soto-Lerma (2005), the New Mexico Supreme Court struck down a city ordinance that attempted to restrict panhandling, citing the state constitution’s free speech protections.

Incorporation Doctrine

  • The process by which the Bill of Rights has been made applicable to the states.
  • Selective Incorporation: Certain protections found in the Bill of Rights are fundamental and are applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

New Mexico State Constitution

  • It is important to understand the interplay between the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico State Constitution.
  • The New Mexico Constitution can provide more expansive rights than the U.S. Constitution, but it cannot provide fewer rights.

The Right to Privacy

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Established the constitutional “right to privacy” through various amendments implying privacy protections.

Key Legal Concepts and Principles

Doctrine of Original Intent

  • Judicial philosophy that interprets the Constitution based on the intent expressed by the framers at the time of its enactment.

Stare Decisis

  • The doctrine of adhering to precedent when making judicial decisions.

Strict Scrutiny

  • A standard of judicial review for legislation that affects fundamental rights or involves suspect classifications.

Rational Basis Review

  • A standard of judicial review that assumes the constitutionality of reasonable legislative or executive enactments.

Intermediate Scrutiny

  • A standard of judicial review that is less stringent than strict scrutiny but more rigorous than rational basis.

Preparing for the Final Exam

  • Review the text of the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico State Constitution.
  • Understand key constitutional doctrines and how they apply to landmark cases.
  • Compare and contrast federal constitutional law with New Mexico state constitutional law.
  • Be familiar with the major cases, their facts, holding, reasoning, and significance.
  • Practice writing concise case briefs using the IRAC format (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion).
  • Engage in discussions and study groups to explore different perspectives on the material.
  • Take practice exams to hone your issue-spotting and essay-writing skills.

This study guide provides a general overview of constitutional law as it applies to the United States and specifically New Mexico. To prepare thoroughly for a final exam, students should delve deeper into each topic, read and brief all assigned cases, and stay updated on any changes or recent developments in the law.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading