Ohio Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law


The U.S. Constitutional Law revolves around the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution addresses the structure of the federal government, the rights of the states, and the civil liberties of individuals.


A. Separation of Powers

Separation of powers is the division of governmental authority into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The U.S. Constitution provides for a system of checks and balances to prevent abuse of power by any branch.

Case: Marbury v. Madison (1803), established the principle of judicial review, wherein the Supreme Court has the power to declare acts of Congress as unconstitutional.

B. Federalism

Federalism is the division of power between the federal government and the states. The U.S. Constitution provides the federal government with specified powers, while the Tenth Amendment reserves all other powers to the states.

Case: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), confirmed the supremacy of the federal government in conflicts with the states.


A. First Amendment Rights

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.

Case: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), established the imminent lawless action test, limiting the power of the state to restrict speech advocating the use of force.

B. Equal Protection Clause

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause provides that no state shall deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection under the law.

Case: Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.


While the Ohio Constitution mirrors the U.S. Constitution, there are certain unique provisions and interpretations.

A. Ohio’s Sovereign Immunity

Under the Ohio Constitution, the state of Ohio and its agencies are generally immune from lawsuits, unless immunity is waived.

Case: Marusa v. Erie Ins. Co. (2013), the Ohio Supreme Court held that the state’s sovereign immunity extends to state employees acting within the scope of their employment.

B. Home Rule

According to the Ohio Constitution, municipalities can exercise all powers of local self-government within the limits prescribed by law.

Case: American Financial Services Assn. v. Cleveland (2008), upheld the city’s predatory lending law, asserting the home rule powers of the city under the Ohio Constitution.


A. Textualism

Textualism involves interpreting the Constitution based on the ordinary meaning of the legal text.

B. Originalism

Originalism involves interpreting the Constitution based on the understanding of the text at the time it was adopted.

C. Living Constitution

Living Constitutionalism involves interpreting the Constitution in the context of contemporary society and values.

Case: Brown v. Board of Education (1954), rejected the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment, and interpreted it in the context of contemporary society, to hold that separate but equal schools are inherently unequal.

This guide covers the key concepts and cases relevant to a 1L Constitutional Law class in Ohio. Keep in mind that understanding the basic concepts, case laws, and their interplay is crucial to mastering the subject and performing well in the final exam.

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