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Constitutional Law I
South Texas College of Law Houston
Kelso, R. Randall

            A.  Sources of Constitutional meaning: 
Interpretation Style
Main Focus of Interpretation style
More Specific Interpretive Tasks
General Reasoning
Contemporaneous Sources
Literal or plain meaning of text
Purpose or spirit of the text (NL)
Verbal maxims / related provisions
Policy maxims / structural arguments, e.g. principles of federalism and SOP (NL)
Specific historical evidence / specific historical intent & concepts
General historical evidence / general historical intent & concepts
Subsequent Events / Considerations
Deference to legislative or executive practice
Common / popular social practices & norms
Natural Law
Core holdings
General reasoned elaboration of law
Prudential concerns
Judicial restraint considerations
Policy concerns, e.g. social justice & equality
                        1.  Formalism = law conceived as mechanical rule application of positive                                enactments of the Constitution.
                                    a.  Focus on:
                                                i.  Literal text
                                                ii.  Contemporary context = verbal maxims & governmental                                                      principles on which the Constitution is based
                                                iii.  Specific, contemporary historical accounts = Fed. Papers,                                                      diaries, etc.
                        2.  Holmesian = defers to dominant branches of gov’t, unless actions violate                          unambiguous text of the Constitution.  
                                    a.  Focus on legislative and executive practice
                        3.  Instrumentalism = says that judges have a role in promoting a just and                              good society by serving as an active and vigorous counterweight on behalf of                                   minorities against more traditional, majoritarian interests.
                        4.  Modern Natural Law = says that judges have a role to play in ensuring a                           just society; however, natural law judges are more disciplined in their                                           activism than are instrumentalists.
                                    a.  Focus on:
                                                i.  Natural law principles of the Enlightenment
                                                ii.   Common-law precedent; and reasoned elaboration of the                                                   law over time.
            B.  Judicial Review & Marbury = if an act of Congress conflicts with the Constitution,             then the Sup. Ct. has the power to declare that law unconstitutional and therefore       null and void.
                        1.  Why does the Ct. have the power of judicial review?
                                    a.  Separation of powers = if Congress and the President           were allowed                                                 to decide what is and what is not constitutional, then those branches                                      would have essentially unlimited power, which was not the intent of                                       the framers.
                                    b.  Written constitution = the powers of the legislature and the                                                             executive are written and defines, so it is up to the Ct. to determine an                                                overreach.
                                    c.  Specific history / Fed. Papers = support Marshal’s interpretation
            C.  Limits on the Fed. Judiciary Power
                        1.  Art. III limits:
                                    a.  Sup. Ct. original JRD = cases involving:
                                                i.  Foreign Ambassadors
                                                ii. Civil cases in which the state is a party
                                                iii.  Disputes b/t the states
                                    b.  Supt Ct. Exclusive Original JRD = cases involving:
                                                i.  Foreign ambassadors
                                                ii.  Disputes b/t the states
                                    c.  Appellate JRD = under the Exceptions Clause, Congress may limit the                                   types of cases that the Sup. Ct. may review on appeal.
                        2.  Federal Ct. Supremacy = Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee says that the Sup. Ct. is                          the supreme authority on issues of Fed law, even if the cases begin and are                                 originally heard in state ct.
                                    a.  Dual theory of sovereignty = State Sup. Cts are the supreme                                                            authority on issues of state law only.
                        3.  Standing Doctrine = Art. III confers standing (right to sue in fed ct.) to a                            party that can prove a “direct personal interest” in the law challenged; a                                mere abstract or unparticularized grievance is not enough to state a “case” or                    “controversy.”
                                    a.  Past or present “injury in fact” = Allen v. Wright says that an injury                                                 must be concrete and particularized—not an abstract injury common                                                 to an entire class of people, e.g. the stigmatization of African                                                     Americans.
                                                i.  Mere generalized grievance not enough = a generalized                                                         grievance is one shared by millions of other folks, e.g. the mere                                                           stigma attached to all black folks as a result of the violation of                                                  fed law preventing the integration of private schools.
                                                ii.  Speculative injury = Lujan says an injury

                        relationship, e.g. doctor / patient + (2) “some genuine                                                                obstacle” that impedes the person’s ability to assert his                                                                         own rights, e.g. privacy concerns or economic                                                                             incentives.
                                                iii.  Organizations = may bring cases on behalf of their own                                                       members as long as the interest is germane to the way in which                                               the organization has defined itself.
                                                iv.  States = may sue on behalf of their own citizens, e.g. MA v.                                                   EPA
                                                v.  Members of Congress = a majority of the chamber must join                                                            the suit.
                                                vi.  General equitable discretion = the ct. may for any equitable                                                            reason say that they will not hear the case.
                        4.  Ripeness = deals with the timing of a lawsuit and turns primarily on two                           factors: (1) whether waiting would allow the facts to develop or crystallize                            and (2) whether waiting will increase the harm experienced by the party.
                                    a.  Potential for imminent harm & Abbott Labs = says that even though                                                a statute has not yet been violated yet, if future violation would                                               impose the threat of serious penalties—criminal or civil—then the                                          issue is ripe.
                                    b.  High compliance costs = if complying with the law would impose a                                                 serious burden or increase uncertainty, then the issue is ripe.
                                    c.  Contingent future events = a claim is not ripe if it rests on                                                     contingent future events that may not occur, e.g. too speculative.
                                    d.  Abstract interests not ripe = if a statute poses even an immediate                                       threat to an abstract interest, such as a “ threat to federalism,” then                                        the issue is not ripe.