Study Guide: Texas Law School 1L Constitutional Law
- Constitutional Law Fundamentals
Constitutional law concerns the role and powers of the different branches of government and the rights of the individuals. It is primarily based on the U.S. Constitution.
Separation of Powers
The doctrine of Separation of Powers is fundamental to the U.S. Constitution, distributing the governmental power among the legislature, executive, and judiciary to prevent abuse of power. In Texas, the state constitution likewise adopts the separation of powers principle.
Relevant case: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952)
Issue: Whether President Truman had the authority to seize U.S. steel mills during the Korean War.
Rule: The President cannot take actions that Congress has not authorized.
Application: Truman’s actions were not authorized by Congress.
Conclusion: The court held Truman’s actions unconstitutional.
Federalism is the division of powers between the federal government and the states. It’s encapsulated in the 10th Amendment.
Relevant case: United States v. Lopez (1995)
Issue: Whether the Gun-Free School Zones Act exceeded Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause.
Rule: Congress has the power to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.
Application: The possession of a gun in a local school zone does not substantially affect interstate commerce.
Conclusion: The act was unconstitutional.
- Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states, with foreign nations, and with the Native American tribes.
Relevant case: Wickard v. Filburn (1942)
Issue: Whether a farmer growing wheat for his own use violates the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938.
Rule: Congress can regulate activities that have a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.
Application: The production of wheat, even for personal use, substantially affects the supply in the market and thus interstate commerce.
Conclusion: The Act was upheld.
- Dormant Commerce Clause
The Dormant Commerce Clause prevents states from improperly burdening or discriminating against interstate commerce.
Relevant case: Granholm v. Heald (2005)
Issue: Whether states can discriminate against out-of-state businesses selling wine directly to consumers.
Rule: States cannot pass legislation that favors in-state businesses over out-of-state businesses.
Application: The law violated the Dormant Commerce Clause.
Conclusion: The law was struck down.
- Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prevents states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Relevant case: Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Issue: Whether segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Rule: “Separate but equal” is inherently unequal in the context of public education.
Application: Segregation in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Conclusion: Segregation was ruled unconstitutional.
- Due Process Clauses
The 5th and 14th Amendments protect individuals from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Relevant case: Roe v. Wade (1973)
Issue: Whether a Texas statute criminalizing most abortions violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy.
Rule: The right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.
Application: The Texas statute infringed on this right of privacy.
Conclusion: The Texas statute was declared unconstitutional.
- First Amendment
The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.
Relevant case: Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Issue: Whether burning the American flag as political protest is protected speech under the First Amendment.
Rule: The government cannot prohibit the expression of an idea because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
Application: Flag burning as a political protest constituted expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.
Conclusion: Johnson’s conviction was overturned.
All these concepts provide a broad understanding of constitutional law. They are not only essential for your constitutional law exam but also for your overall development as a law student in Texas.