North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law

I. Introduction to Constitutional Law
Constitutional law governs the interpretation and implementation of the U.S. Constitution. It establishes the framework for the creation and operation of the United States government and the rights of the citizens governed by that government.

II. The Constitution
A. Structure and Content
– Preamble
– Seven Articles
– Twenty-seven Amendments

B. Principles
– Separation of Powers
– Checks and Balances
– Federalism
– Judicial Review

III. Judicial Review
Established in Marbury v. Madison (1803), judicial review allows courts to decide the constitutionality of legislative acts.

IV. Federalism
A. The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2)
– Federal law takes precedence over state law.

B. The Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3)
– Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Expanded congressional power over interstate commerce.

C. Tenth Amendment
– Powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States.

V. The Separation of Powers
A. Legislative Powers (Article I)
– Bicameral legislature: Senate and House of Representatives

B. Executive Powers (Article II)
– The role and powers of the President

C. Judicial Powers (Article III)
– The Federal Judiciary, including the Supreme Court

VI. Individual Rights
A. First Amendment
– Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition

B. Second Amendment
– Right to keep and bear arms

C. Due Process and Equal Protection (Fourteenth Amendment)
– Incorporates Bill of Rights to the states

D. Rights of the Accused (Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments)
– Protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, self-incrimination, and cruel and unusual punishment

VII. North Dakota Specific Provisions and Cases
A. North Dakota Constitution
– Similarities and differences with the U.S. Constitution

B. North Dakota Supreme Court Cases
– Interpretations of state constitutional provisions

VIII. Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Cases
A. Roe v. Wade (1973)
Issue: Whether the Constitution recognizes a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion.
Rule: The Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion prior to viability without undue governmental restriction.
Analysis: The Court balanced the woman’s privacy rights against the state’s interests in regulating abortions.
Conclusion: The Court held that the right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

B. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Issue: The legality of racial segregation in public schools.
Rule: “Separate but equal” facilities are inherently unequal in the context of public education.
Analysis: Segregation by law implies the inferiority of minority children, damaging their educational and personal growth.
Conclusion: Unanimous decision that state laws establishing segregated public schools are unconstitutional.

IX. The Constitutional Amendment Process (Article V)
Understanding the formal process of amending the U.S. Constitution.

X. Constitutional Interpretation
A. Originalism
– The belief that interpretation of the Constitution should be based on what was originally written and intended.

B. Living Constitution
– The belief that the Constitution has a dynamic meaning and that contemporary society should be taken into account.

XI. Substantive Due Process and the Right to Privacy
– Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Established the right to privacy through the interpretation of the “penumbras” and “emanations” of other constitutional protections.

XII. The Equal Protection Clause
– Analysis of how the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause has been used to combat discrimination.

XIII. First Amendment Freedoms and Limitations
A. Speech
– Categories of protected and unprotected speech
– Content-based vs. content-neutral restrictions

B. Religion
– Establishment Clause: No law respecting an establishment of religion
– Free Exercise Clause: Prohibiting the free exercise of religion

XIV. Review of Key Constitutional Doctrines and Clauses
A. Necessary and Proper Clause
– McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Confirmed the right of Congress to utilize implied powers.

B. Equal Protection
– Scrutiny levels: Rational basis, intermediate scrutiny, strict scrutiny

XV. Case Briefing and Analysis
– Students should practice writing case briefs using the IRAC method to prepare for analysis of hypothetical scenarios on exams.

XVI. Exam Preparation
– Review past exams and practice writing out answers.
– Form study groups to discuss and test understanding of the material.
– Visit professors during office hours for clarification on difficult topics.

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