Pennsylvania Law School 1L Study Guide for Constitutional Law
- Concept: Judicial Review
Judicial Review refers to the concept that the judicial branch has the authority to review legislative and executive actions to ensure their compatibility with the U.S Constitution.
Case: Marbury v. Madison
Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the authority to review and nullify the laws passed by Congress.
Rule: The Constitution, not the Congress, grants the Supreme Court its powers.
Analysis: The Supreme Court ruled that it has the power to strike down laws, treaties, and government actions that it finds in violation of the U.S Constitution.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court has the power to review and nullify the laws if they are unconstitutional, establishing the principle of Judicial Review.
- Concept: Federalism
Federalism refers to the allocation of power among federal and state governments.
Case: McCulloch v. Maryland
Issue: Whether Congress had the authority to establish a bank in Maryland and if the state had the power to tax the bank.
Rule: The Constitution grants Congress implied powers to implement the Constitution’s express powers, to create a functional national government.
Analysis: The Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power under the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to establish a bank and that a state could not tax a federal institution.
Conclusion: This case reinforced the supremacy of federal law over state law.
- Concept: Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause refers to the provision in Article I of the U.S. Constitution that gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.
Case: Gibbons v. Ogden
Issue: Whether New York could grant a steamship company a monopoly to operate on an interstate waterway.
Rule: The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.
Analysis: The Supreme Court ruled that New York’s law granting the monopoly was unconstitutional, as it conflicted with federal laws regulating interstate commerce.
Conclusion: The Commerce Clause construes a broad interpretation, allowing Congress to exert its power over most matters that cross state lines.
- Concept: Due Process
The Due Process Clause prohibits the state from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Case: Goss v. Lopez
Issue: Whether Ohio’s suspension of students from public schools without a hearing violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Rule: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of students to be given notice and an opportunity for hearing before being disciplined.
Analysis: The Supreme Court found that Ohio’s statute violated due process, as it failed to provide students with any procedural safeguards.
Conclusion: The Due Process Clause requires that legislation must respect all legal rights owed to a person according to the law.
- Concept: Equal Protection
The Equal Protection Clause requires that the state must apply laws equally and cannot discriminate among its citizens.
Case: Brown v. Board of Education
Issue: Whether segregation of public education based solely on race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Rule: The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from segregating public schools based on race.
Analysis: The Supreme Court held that segregation in public education produces a harmful psychological effect on minority children, which is inherently unequal.
Conclusion: Racial segregation in public schools is inherently unequal and violates the Equal Protection Clause.
This study guide provides an overview of central concepts in Constitutional Law. Thorough understanding of these concepts, cases, and applicable laws will be crucial in preparing for your final semester exam. Remember to also focus on case facts, reasoning, and policy implications as you continue your studies.