Constitutional Law Outline
I. Judicial Review
a. Court has the power to declare legislation or executive acts unconstitutional (Marbury)
i. Implied power of the court
1. Inferred from written Constitution
2. Necessary to the judicial role in interpreting law
3. Court must decide what the law is when statutes and Constitution conflict
b. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution is exclusive
i. State’s interpretation cannot override Supreme Court
ii. Executive has very limited discretion to ignore the court—must execute the law, and Supreme Court decisions are the law
iii. Congress can, of course, legislate after a law has been struck down, but it must do so in line with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution
c. Supreme Court has the power to review federal constitutional decisions handed down by the state courts (Martin)
i. Article III gives Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over ALL cases arising under the Constitution
ii. There is no state sovereignty over constitutional interpretation
iii. Interpretation of the Constitution must be uniform throughout the nation
iv. Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (parallel to Marbury)
The Court held that it was constitutional for Congress to vest the Supreme Court with the power to review decisions of the state courts in cases arising under the Constitution.
Justice Story justified his holding by emphasizing the need for a centralizing force to harmonize the different interpretations of the Constitution that will occur in a federal system. He also pointed out that there needs to be a check on the individual states’ interests, jealousies, and prejudices that might sometimes prohibit the administration of justice.
In order to arrive at his conclusion, Justice Story reasoned that because the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction in all cases where it does not have original jurisdiction, and because Congress was not obligated by the Constitution to create lower federal courts, then if Congress choose not to create lower federal courts the only way the Supreme Court could exercise its appellate jurisdiction is over the state courts. He reinforces his conclusion by referring to Art. VI, which requires state judges to take an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Three ways to interpret the Constitution:
(1) Look at the original intent of the Framers.
(2) Look at the governmental processes established by the Constitution.
(3) Look at the fundamental principles embodied in the Constitution.
MARTIN: The Virginia ruled for the lessee. Lessee appealed to the Supreme Court sent the case back to Virginia and commanded the Court of Appeals to enter judgment for the claimant. The Court of Appeals refuses to enter such judgment because it feels they’re separate sovereigns and, thus, Section 25 of the Judiciary Act is unconstitutional. The Supreme Courts kills that argument.
à RULE: Though the state and federal systems are parallel, state court decisions are subordinate to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
1) Justice Story: It makes no sense to have a system of judicial review and have no review of state decisions
2) Though the court establishes that its rulings reign supreme, it does not address its ability to compel compliance with its rulings from the lower courts. This shows an effort to maintain sovereignty of the state and federal systems.
3) The Supreme Court’s power allows efficacy and uniformity of decisions throughout the nation. Without this type of structure, the results and problems that would arise would be innumerable
4) Section 25 of the Judiciary Act reinforces the strength of the Supremacy Clause
Explain why Martin was justified on the basis of the need for “uniform decisions.” Subordinating state-court decisions to the Supreme Court is conducive to ensuring efficacy and consistency of decisions nationwide and avoids the multitude of problems that could arise from lack of such structure (like citizens being deprived of rights in one state but getting them in other states)
à Story wrote, there is a need for uniformity in decisions throughout the nation interpreting the constitution. “If there were no revising authority to control these jarring and discordant judgments, and harmonize them into uniformity, the laws, the treaties and the constitution of the US would be different in different states.”
In what sense is Martin more important than Marbury? It’s created a structure through which the state courts are subordinate to the Supreme Court, which helps to maintain precedential uniformity and efficiency of the federal legal system. Further, judicial review would be diluted if it wasn’t applicable to the states.
d. Court will not review a decision from a state court that rests on adequate and independent state grounds
i. State court decision must be adequate
ii. State court decision must be independent of federal law
iii. State court opinion must clearly state that it is relying on state law to reach its decision
l review was not a concept pulled from thin air by Marshall, it was mentioned in the Federalist Papers and is said to be intended by the Framers.
4. At the time this case was politically controversial, not because of Marshall’s holding, but because of the feud between the Federalists and the Republicans. Marshall’s opinion was extremely shrewd because while he gave President Jefferson a technical victory by holding that the Court could not order the commission to be delivered to Marbury, he won a substantive victory for himself by placing the power of judicial review into the hands of the Supreme Court.
5. Note that the dicta in Marshall’s opinion talks of how Marbury has a legal right to his commission. However, Marshall did not go so far as to order the delivery, because he would have had no means of compelling Jefferson to obey such an order.
6. What if there was no judicial review?
7. Congress would be able to make unconstitutional laws and the judiciary would have no recourse. The president could veto the law then congress could overturn it.
MARBURY: Marbury and others were appointed justices of the peace during President Adams’s administration. Their commissions were signed and sealed by then-Secretary of State John Marshall, who was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court, at the eleventh hour (midnight judges). However, the commissions were not delivered before Marshall’s term expired. The Jeffersonian Republicans came into power and it hated the Adams administration (Federalists). The new Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to deliver the commissions as instructed by President Jefferson. Marbury brought an original action against Madison in the Supreme Court, where the case was heard before Justice Marshall (conflict of interest)
à RULE: The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction only in those cases specified by Article III of the Constitution
à RULE 2: The Supreme Court has the power to review and override a legislative act that is repugnant to the Constitution (judicial review)
What is the relationship between the Marbury power and Congress’ control over the jurisdiction of the federal courts? The Court is the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution’s meaning/federal courts will determine what the law is in ONLY those cases that Congress allows to come before it.