New York Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

New York Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. The Constitution: Text, History, and Structure

A. The Preamble
– Brief Summary: Serves as an introduction, highlighting the purposes and guiding principles behind the Constitution.
– Relevant Concepts: Union, justice, tranquility, defense, welfare, liberty.

B. Separation of Powers
– Brief Summary: The division of governmental powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to prevent tyranny.
– Cases: Marbury v. Madison (1803) – Established judicial review.
– Applicable Law: Articles I, II, and III of the U.S. Constitution.

C. Federalism
– Brief Summary: The division of power between the federal government and the states.
– Cases: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) – Confirmed the supremacy of federal law and the implied powers of Congress.
– Applicable Law: 10th Amendment.

II. Judicial Review and Interpretation

A. Judicial Review
– Brief Summary: The authority of courts to declare laws unconstitutional.
– IRAC for Marbury v. Madison:
Issue: Does the Supreme Court have the authority to order the delivery of commission?
Rule: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
Analysis: The Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution, the Supreme Court has authority to review acts of Congress.
Conclusion: Marbury has a right to the commission, but the court cannot enforce it.

B. Methods of Constitutional Interpretation
– Brief Summary: Various approaches such as textualism, originalism, and the living Constitution.
– Relevant Concepts: Intent of the Founders, evolving societal norms, and strict adherence to the text.

III. The Powers of Congress

A. The Commerce Clause
– Brief Summary: Grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among states.
– Cases: Wickard v. Filburn (1942) – Expanded the scope of the commerce clause to intrastate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
– Applicable Law: Article I, Section 8, Clause 3.

B. The Taxing and Spending Power
– Brief Summary: Congress’s power to tax and spend for the general welfare.
– Cases: United States v. Butler (1936) – Recognized congressional discretion in taxing and spending, but also recognized limitations.
– Applicable Law: Article I, Section 8, Clause 1.

C. The Necessary and Proper Clause
– Brief Summary: Permits Congress to make laws essential to carry out its enumerated powers.
– IRAC for McCulloch v. Maryland:
Issue: Does Congress have the authority to establish a national bank, and can a state tax it?
Rule: The Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress the discretion to decide how to implement its powers.
Analysis: The creation of a national bank is within Congress’s implied powers; Maryland cannot tax the bank as it would interfere with federal powers.
Conclusion: Congress had the power to establish the bank, and Maryland could not tax it.

IV. The Powers and Limits of the Executive

A. Appointment and Removal Power
– Brief Summary: The President’s authority to appoint and remove executive branch officials.
– Cases: Myers v. United States (1926) – Established the President’s power to remove executive branch officials without Senate approval.
– Applicable Law: Article II, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3.

B. Executive Orders
– Brief Summary: Directives issued by the President to manage operations of the federal government.
– Relevant Concepts: They carry the weight of law but can be overturned by legislation or judicial review.

C. War Powers and Foreign Policy
– Brief Summary: The President’s authority in military and foreign affairs.
– Cases: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952) – Limited the President’s power to seize private property during wartime without congressional authorization.
– Applicable Law: Article II, Section 2, and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

V. Due Process and Equal Protection

A. The Fourteenth Amendment
– Brief Summary: Addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws.
– Cases: Brown v. Board of Education (1954) – Overturned “separate but equal” doctrine, mandating desegregation.
– Applicable Law: The Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

B. Substantive Due Process
– Brief Summary: Protection from infringement on certain fundamental rights by the government.
– Cases: Roe v. Wade (1973) – Recognized a woman’s right to choose abortion under privacy rights.

C. Procedural Due Process
– Brief Summary: Requires government procedures to be fair and impartial.
– Relevant Concepts: Notice and an opportunity to be heard before deprivation of life, liberty, or property.

VI. First Amendment Rights

A. Freedom of Speech
– Brief Summary: The right to express opinions without government restraint.
– Cases: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) – Established that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected unless it incites imminent lawless action.
– Applicable Law: The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

B. Freedom of Religion
– Brief Summary: Prohibits government from establishing a religion or interfering with religious practices.
– Cases: Employment Division v. Smith (1990) – Held that neutral laws of general applicability do not violate the Free Exercise Clause.
– Applicable Law: The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

VII. The Rights of the Accused

A. The Fourth Amendment
– Brief Summary: Protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
– Cases: Terry v. Ohio (1968) – Established the stop-and-frisk exception to the warrant requirement.
– Applicable Law: The Fourth Amendment.

B. The Fifth Amendment
– Brief Summary: Protects against self-incrimination and guarantees the right to due process.
– Cases: Miranda v. Arizona (1966) – Established Miranda rights.
– Applicable Law: The Fifth Amendment.

C. The Sixth Amendment
– Brief Summary: Guarantees the right to a fair and public trial, an impartial jury, and the right to counsel.
– Cases: Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) – Held that the right to counsel is fundamental and applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Applicable Law: The Sixth Amendment.

VIII. Privacy Rights and Liberties

A. Right to Privacy
– Brief Summary: Although not explicitly mentioned, it is derived from various amendments.
– Cases: Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) – Established a right to marital privacy.
– Applicable Law: The “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bill of Rights.

This study guide provides a broad overview of the key concepts and cases in U.S. Constitutional Law, with an emphasis on principles and case law that are particularly relevant to students in New York. It is important to supplement this guide with the detailed reading of cases, statutes, and constitutional provisions, as well as to keep abreast of any state-specific nuances in New York law that might affect the interpretation and application of these principles.

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