I. UNDERSTANDING CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
A. The Constitution
The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land, establishing the structure of government, the rights of citizens, and limitations on government power. In studying constitutional law, it is critical to understand the principle of judicial review (Marbury v. Madison), which gives the courts the power to interpret the Constitution, review statutes and administrative actions, and declare them unconstitutional if necessary.
Federalism refers to the distribution of power between the federal and state governments. Relevant cases include McCulloch v. Maryland, which established the Supremacy Clause, asserting that federal law is supreme over state law when there is a conflict, and United States v. Lopez, which limited the reach of the Commerce Clause.
II. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
A. First Amendment
The First Amendment protects several rights, including free speech (Brandenburg v. Ohio), freedom of religion (Employment Division v. Smith), and freedom of the press (New York Times Co. v. United States).
B. Equal Protection
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating against people in similar situations without a compelling reason. Key cases include Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed school segregation, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
C. Due Process
The Due Process Clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments guarantee fundamental fairness in government proceedings. Relevant cases include Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion under the substantive due process doctrine, and Gideon v. Wainwright, which guaranteed the right to counsel in criminal cases.
III. WYOMING-SPECIFIC CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
A. Wyoming Constitution
The Wyoming Constitution establishes the structure of the state’s government and guarantees certain rights to Wyoming citizens. Notably, the Wyoming State Constitution includes an explicit right to privacy (Article 1, Section 6), which is generally seen as more extensive than the implied federal constitutional right to privacy.
B. Wyoming v. Houghton
This case, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is an essential Fourth Amendment case law out of Wyoming. It held that if a police officer has probable cause to search a car, they can also inspect passengers’ belongings found inside the car that may conceal the object of the search.
C. Wyoming’s Environmental Protections
Wyoming’s Constitution (Art 1, Sec 31 and 32) provides for the preservation of water, forests, and wildlife. These articles make it the State’s duty to ensure the preservation, protection and enhancement of air, water, and land resources.
D. Gun Rights in Wyoming
Wyoming’s Constitution (Art 1, Sec 24) explicitly protects the right to bear arms. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago, which incorporated the Second Amendment against the states, reinforced Wyoming’s constitutional provision.
Each of these areas and cases should be studied in depth, focusing on the court’s reasoning, the rule of law established, and the impact on constitutional law. For each case, use the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) format to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the case’s relevance to constitutional law.