I. FUNDAMENTALS OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
A. SUPREMACY CLAUSE
The Supremacy Clause, found in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, establishes the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and U.S. treaties as “the supreme law of the land.” It implies that state laws that conflict with federal laws are invalid.
Case: McCulloch v. Maryland (1819). The state of Maryland enacted a tax that the federal bank had to pay. The Supreme Court held that federal law is supreme over state law, thus state of Maryland couldn’t tax a federal institution.
B. JUDICIAL REVIEW
It refers to the power of the judiciary to interpret the Constitution and invalidate laws that they find contradicts the Constitution.
Case: Marbury v. Madison (1803). This case established judicial review in U.S. law.
II. SEPARATION OF POWERS
A. EXECUTIVE POWER
The President possesses the executive power, which includes the power to enforce laws, veto legislation, command the military, and engage with foreign nations.
Case: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). The Supreme Court limited executive power by ruling that the President could not seize private steel mills during the Korean War without explicit congressional authorization.
B. LEGISLATIVE POWER
The Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, holds the legislative power. This entails the ability to draft and pass statutes, regulate commerce, declare war, and maintain the armed forces.
Case: United States v. Lopez (1995). The Supreme Court held that Congress had exceeded its commerce clause power by prohibiting guns in a school zone.
C. JUDICIAL POWER
The judiciary has the power to interpret laws, determine the constitutionality of laws, and apply laws to individual cases.
Case: Bush v. Gore (2000). The Supreme Court used its judicial power to end the recount in Florida’s presidential election.
A. COMMERCE CLAUSE
The Commerce Clause, found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
Case: Wickard v. Filburn (1942). The Supreme Court held that Congress could regulate a farmer’s wheat production, even if it was intended for personal consumption, under its Commerce Clause power.
B. DUE PROCESS CLAUSE
The Due Process Clauses in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments limit the power of the federal and state governments, respectively, to deprive individuals of their rights.
Case: Roe v. Wade (1973). The Supreme Court held that a state law that banned abortions (except to save the life of the mother) was unconstitutional and that women have the constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion.
C. EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that no state shall deny any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws.”
Case: Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The Supreme Court held that racial segregation in public education was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
IV. BILL OF RIGHTS
A. FIRST AMENDMENT
This amendment protects several basic liberties — freedom of religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly.
B. FOURTH AMENDMENT
This amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
C. FIFTH AMENDMENT
This amendment establishes a number of personal rights including the right to remain silent, the right against double jeopardy, and the right to due process of law.
D. FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT
This amendment provides a broad definition of citizenship, extending “equal protection of the laws” to all persons.
For each of these amendments, numerous landmark cases exist that have shaped constitutional law. It is essential to be familiar with these, as they frequently serve as the foundation for legal arguments and judgments in a broad range of legal contexts.