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Constitutional Law I
South Texas College of Law Houston
Alfini, James J.

Constitutional Law
Spring 2017
Bill of Rights
Amend. 1, 4, 5, and 6: Not covered
Amend. 10: The powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people
Amend. 11: The judicial power of the US shall not be construed to extend any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects
Amend. 14: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the US and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive
Justiciability: concerns the limits upon legal issues over which a court can exercise its judicial authority
Justiciability doctrine determines which matters federal courts can hear and decide and which must be dismissed
Includes the prohibition against advisory opinions, standing, ripeness, mootness, and the political question doctrine
Supreme Court can only hear cases and controversies
Marbury v. Madison
Writ of mandamus: an extraordinary writ commanding an official to perform a ministerial act that the law recognizes as an absolute duty and not a matter for the official's discretion; used only when all other judicial remedies fail.
Judicial review is the ability of a court to examine and decide if a statute, treaty or administrative regulation contradicts or violates the provisions of existing law, a State Constitution, or ultimately the United States Constitution.
Case established the authority for the judiciary to review the constitutionality of executive and legislative acts.
Supreme court has original jurisdiction over writ of mandamus
First time that an act of congress conflicts with the constitution, the constitution is supreme law of the land. Therefore the act is unconstitutional.
Writ of certiorari: orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it.
Writ of Habeas corpus: used to bring a party who has been criminally convicted in state court into federal court.
Usually, writs of habeas corpus are used to review the legality of the party’s arrest, imprisonment, or detention. The federal court’s review of a habeas corpus petition is considered to be collateral relief of a state court decision rather than direct review.
Justiciability Doctrines
Determine which matters federal courts can hear and decide and which must be dismissed
Prohibition Against Advisory Opinions
Core of Article III’s limitation on federal judicial power is that federal courts cannot issue advisory opinions
Advisory opinions arise when state courts are authorized to provide opinions about the constitutionality of pending legislation or on constitutional questions referred to them by other branches of government
By providing guidance to the legislature, these rulings can prevent the enactment of unconstitutional laws.
Can spare a legislature the effort of adopting statutes soon to be invalidated by the courts and can save time by allowing the legislature to correct constitutional infirmities at the earliest possible time
Despite benefits, federal courts cannot issue advisory opinions
Judicial role is limited to deciding actual disputes; does not include giving advice to Congress
Judicial resources are conserved because advisory opinions might be requested in many instances in which the law ultimately would not pass the legislature
Prohibition against advisory opinions helps ensure that cases will be presented to the Court in terms of specific disputes, not as hypothetical legal questions
For a case to be justiciable and not an advisory opinion, two criteria must be met:
There must be an actual dispute between adverse litigants
There must be a substantial likelihood that a federal court decision in favor of a claimant will bring about some change or have some effect
Determination of whether a specific person is the proper party to bring a “case or controversy” to the court for adjudication
Asks the question “Whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues”
Values served by limiting standing
Promotes separation of powers by restricting the availability of judicial review.
Serves judicial efficiency by preventing a flood of lawsuits by those who have only an ideological stake in the outcome
Improves judicial decision making by ensuring that there is a specific controversy before the court and there is an advocate with a sufficient personal concern to effectively litigate the matter
Serves the value of fairness by ensuring people will raise only their own rights and concerns and that people cannot be intermeddlers trying to protect others who do not want to the protection offered
Litigant must posses a direct stake in the outcome
Constitutional Requirements for Standing
A plaintiff must generally allege a specific “case or controversy” between herself and the defendant in order to have standing.
Plaintiff must allege that he or she has suffered or imminently will suffer an injury
Allegations of possible future injury are not sufficient
Injuries to common law, constitutional law and statutory rights are all sufficient for standing purposes
Causation – Plaintiff must allege that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct. Must show specific, concrete facts
Redressability – Plaintiff m

that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again
Suing for damages in addition to injunctive declaratory relief
Collateral consequences – the injury is gone but now suing for damages
Ex: Criminal Cases – A person who was incarcerated and served his sentence can still have a case reviewed since he is still affected by not being able to vote, cannot engage in certain business, etc.
Ex: Civil Cases –
Defendant voluntarily ceases an allegedly illegal practice but is free to resume it at any time
U.S. sued companies who had similar board members. Board members stopped the illegal conduct but court refused to dismiss case because “defendant is free to return to his old ways”
The court can say on its own that there is no case or controversy, and thus they have no jurisdiction, so the case is dismissed.
If the defendant voluntarily/unilaterally stops the illegal activity in a means to make the case moot, it will not be moot (shame mootness).
Unless there is no reasonable way for the defendant to return to his old ways
Political Question Doctrine
­Refers to subject matter that the Court deems to be inappropriate for judicial review
The dispute is entrusted to one of the other two branches of government because it is demonstrably entangled in the two political branches of government, so the federal court will not get involved due to separation of powers (Baker v. Carr)
The court decides if the matter is a political question
Elements to find a political question inappropriate for judicial review:
A textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to the political branches for resolution; or
A lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or
Court feel incompetent to resolve the issue
The impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for non-judicial discretion; or
The impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of respect due to other branches of government; or
An unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; and; or
The potential embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments one on question