North Carolina Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

North Carolina Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. State and Federal Relations

  • Understanding the Federal System: Emphasize the structure of government in the U.S., focusing on the division and sharing of powers between state and federal governments, as described in the Tenth Amendment.

  • Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2): Federal law is the supreme law of the land. Explore preemption and the conditions under which state laws are invalidated due to conflict with federal laws.

  • Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3): Examine how the Commerce Clause has been used to justify a wide range of federal regulations and its implications for North Carolina state laws.

  • Dormant Commerce Clause: Study the implications of the Commerce Clause’s negative aspect, which limits states’ ability to discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce.

  • Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section 1): Understand the requirement for states to recognize the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.

II. Separation of Powers

  • Checks and Balances: Review the system designed to ensure that no single branch of government becomes too powerful.

  • Executive Powers: Discuss the scope and limits of executive action, particularly in North Carolina.

  • Legislative Powers: Understand the mechanisms of lawmaking and limitations on legislative authority.

  • Judicial Review: Examine the role of courts in interpreting the constitutionality of legislation and executive actions.

III. Individual Rights

  • Bill of Rights: Study the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee individual rights and liberties.

  • Fourteenth Amendment: Focus on the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses and their critical role in civil rights and liberties.

  • First Amendment Freedoms: Dive into cases regarding freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.

  • Right to Privacy: Understand the concept of privacy as it has been interpreted by the courts, including issues specific to North Carolina.

  • Criminal Procedure: Examine the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the context of criminal justice.

IV. Equal Protection and Discrimination

  • Equal Protection Analysis: Understand the strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and rational basis tests used to evaluate discrimination claims.

  • Race and Affirmative Action: Examine landmark cases related to racial discrimination and affirmative action policies.

  • Gender Discrimination: Study the evolution of gender discrimination law and the standards applied.

V. Case Law and Applications Using IRAC Format

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
– Issue: Whether the State of New York could grant an exclusive steamboat operating license in violation of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
– Rule: The Commerce Clause of the Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
– Analysis: The Court determined that the Commerce Clause encompasses all forms of commercial intercourse that concern more than one state.
– Conclusion: The New York law granting exclusive rights to operate steamboats was unconstitutional because it conflicted with federal law.

North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC (2015)
– Issue: Whether the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners, which was comprised mostly of practicing dentists, had antitrust immunity when it took action to exclude non-dentists from offering teeth whitening services.
– Rule: State entities are subject to federal antitrust laws unless they are actively supervised by the state.
– Analysis: The Court held that because the Board was not actively supervised by the state and was composed of market participants, it was not immune from antitrust laws.
– Conclusion: The actions of the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners were not immune from antitrust challenges.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
– Issue: Whether the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race was constitutional.
– Rule: Separate but equal educational facilities are inherently unequal and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
– Analysis: The Court found that segregation in public education created a sense of inferiority and therefore was detrimental to the education and personal growth of African American children.
– Conclusion: The practice of racial segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional.

VI. North Carolina-Specific Constitutional Provisions

  • North Carolina Constitution: Familiarize yourself with the North Carolina Constitution and its unique provisions, such as the Declaration of Rights.

  • State Constitutional Litigation: Understand the process of litigating state constitutional issues in North Carolina courts.

  • Examination of North Carolina Cases: Study key state cases that have shaped the interpretation of the North Carolina Constitution.

VII. Constitutional Interpretation and Theory

  • Originalism vs. Living Constitution: Explore the different approaches to interpreting the Constitution, including strict constructionism and the idea of a living, evolving document.

  • Judicial Activism vs. Restraint: Understand the debate over the proper role of the judiciary in interpreting and applying constitutional law.

VIII. Conclusion

Preparing for a final exam in Constitutional Law requires a firm understanding of both federal constitutional provisions and North Carolina specific laws and cases. Students should focus on mastering the foundational concepts, studying the landmark cases, and understanding the nuances of how federal and state laws interact. By utilizing the IRAC method, students can critically analyze and apply constitutional principles to a variety of hypothetical scenarios, which is often a key component of law school examinations. Remember to stay current on recent case law, as constitutional jurisprudence is an ever-evolving field.

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