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Constitutional Law I
South Texas College of Law Houston
Rhodes, Charles W. "Rocky"

The Origins, Functions, and Purposes of the Constitution
Functions of the Constitution
1. Establishes National Government and allocates powers to each of the branches of government
Legislative Branch – Congress:
Power to tax and regulate commerce (2 biggest changes since Articles of Confederation)
Power to declare war
See Art. I, §8
Executive Branch – the President:
Power to make treaties
Power to issue pardons
Power to appoint Supreme Court Justices
Re: WAR, President is the Commander in Chief
See Art. II
Judicial Branch – the SCOTUS:
The SCOTUS doesn’t have the power to hear every case, there are limitations based on what cases they can hear
See Art. III
2. Federalism
Supremacy Clause: the laws of the Constitution are the supreme laws of the land
The laws of the states must exist within these limits
3. Individual Rights
Modalities of Constitutional Interpretation
Does the Court have the power to hear the case?
The Scope and Limitations of Judicial Review
The Authority for Federal Judicial Review of Congressional and Executive Acts
Judicial Review gives courts the authority to review legislative and executive actions to ensure they are in compliance with the Constitution.
Key Points from Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison established the authority for the judiciary to review the constitutionality of executive and legislative acts – the SCOTUS announced its power to declare statutes unconstitutional
The Constitution is regulatory, not idealistic
Supremacy Clause says that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and only laws made in accordance with the Constitution are supreme
The Constitution prevails over acts of Congress and the Executive – we are the government of laws of the land, not laws of men.
The Judiciary is given the power to decide whether an act of Congress or the Executive is Constitutional – Judicial power is extended to all cases “arising under” the Constitution
For example, if there is a statute that is passed by Congress that conflicts with the Constitution – the statute can be challenged, and the Judiciary has the authority to decide its constitutionality
The Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus.
Judiciary can compel executive action
There is a distinction between political/discretionary acts of the Executive and ministerial acts
Political acts: within the discretion of the Executive
Ministerial acts: where the executive has a duty to perform
The Judiciary can compel ministerial acts done by the Executive, but do not have the power to interfere with the Executive’s discretionary power
Duty to Interpret the Law
The essence of judicial duty is to interpret the law
Marshall’s argument??????????
3 Parts to the Argument:
(1) Separation of Powers
The Court’s jurisdiction is defined in the Constitution
The legislature cannot extend the judiciary’s jurisdiction (if the legislature wants the Court to hear a case, the Judiciary must have jurisdiction over the case to hear it, cannot hear it just because Congress said so)
(2) National Values
If we’re going to have a constitution, it has to be paramount – why go to the trouble of writing a constitution if it can be blown away easily
(3) Textual
Appellate jurisdiction, not original
Limitations on Judicial Power
Judicial Review of State Judgments
The SCOTUS is the final authority; they have the power to hear all cases that arise under the laws and treatises of the U.S.
Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee: Virginia confiscated Martin’s land during the Revolutionary War and granted a portion of it to Hunter; Martin sued for possession. Supreme Court ruled Martin was rightful owner, but Virginia courts ruled State of Virginia rightfully owned it.
Rule of Law – Under Article III of the US Constitution, the Supreme Court has authority to exercise appellate review of state court decisions.
The extent of the Court’s JX over state judgments
Eustis v Bolles: Bolles owes Eustis $, Bolles goes through insolvency (bankruptcy) and agrees to pay ½ debt based on Mass Insolvency Statutes, Eustis accepts ½ payment but then tries to get Mass Insolvency Laws declared uncon based on Contracts Clause in CON. But bc he accepted ½ payment he waived his rights to sue on the issue. Therefore, even tho there is a Fed issue (contracts clause possibly violated) the state law issue is the main issue and the fed issue is not material to the judgment therefore sup ct does not have JX.
Doctrine of Adequate and Independent Grounds (COUPLE MC Qs)
The Court has long declined to review state judgments that rest upon “adequate and independent” state law grounds.
 The basic concept is that, if the state court would come to the same judgment irrespective of the resolution of the federal issues in the case, the Supreme Court will not review the state court’s holding.
This doctrine limits the SCOTUS from reviewing cases in which Federal issues won’t affect the decision
State determination of its own rules cannot be reviewed by the SCOTUS (unless it contradicts constitution?)
If there is a state law basis for the judgment that is (1) independent of federal law and (2) based on adequate grounds for relief, then the SCOTUS does not have the authority to hear the case
Adequate = bc state grounds resolve the case…fed issue becomes immaterial
Can the SCOTUS change the outcome of the case by ruling on a federal issue?
Yes – not adequate state grounds
No – federal issue immaterial, ADEQUATE state grounds!!!
Independent = independently determined based on state grounds (not using fed law)…how analysis was done
Plain Statement Rule – Michigan v Long
Long held that if the state court opinion did not plainly reflect an independent and adequate state ground for the holding, the Court would presume that there were no such grounds and that it had JX. The Court said that state courts easily could avoid this result by including a plain statement to rebut the presumption.
if intermix state and fed law in arguments and opinion, state judges must have clear & plain statement saying the decision was reached on state law grounds
if fed precedents followed…court must clearly state that fed decisions ONLY followed for guidance
Creates “adequate and independent state grounds” so the SCOTUS can’t review
Another way to show a decision is based solely on independent grounds is by only using state authorities
Depending on how you structure your case, you can prevent the SCOTUS from reviewing it.
Congressional Control of Jurisdiction of the SCOTUS
Sup Ct has original JX – Ambassadors — state as a party — ministers and councils (Art II, Sec 2)
            Appellate JX in all other cases – w/ exceptions and regulations – see below

uly instituted in courts of proper jurisdiction.”
***Because such an actual controversy did not exist, the Court dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction; therefore, the decision would be merely advisory – it wouldn’t really solve anything between parties
Textual: “cases and controversies” = NO advisory opinions
Structural: don’t want the SCOTUS to encroach on powers of other branches and tell them what to do
Prudential: Judiciary doesn’t have the institutional capacity to make determinations on hypothetical situations
Standing (P proper person to bring suit?) – cannot be waived or altered by statute
Elements: SEE PG 73-77 for good explanation and hypos
(1) P must have suffered “Injury-in-fact” (harm)
Injury-in-fact = an invasion of a legally protected interest…
Must be concrete and particularized AND
Concrete = must be real not abstract/hypothetical/ideological such as claiming the Govt isn’t following law. (Can be intangible but Ct will closely scrutinize)
Particularized = impacts the P in a personal and individual way
(subjective injuries are not sufficient, and cannot be a diff party that was injured, see exceptions in 3rd party standing)
Must be actual or imminent
Substantial likelihood (for injunctive relief) P will be wronged (not conjectural or speculative or “someday…”)
***If procedures are violated then an injury has been created that is sufficient for standing. Pg 171 Q&A
(2) Fairly Traceable
Causation connection—Ps injury fairly traceable (not too weak or attenuated) to D’s conduct , and not result of the independent 3rd party action
(similar to Proximate Cause, cannot be caused by superseding cause of 3rd party – but DON’T SAY THAT; just think it for conceptual purposes)
***Opportunity to compete on a race neutral basis is required…if it is not given then cause of injury is satisfied.
(3) Redressability
Must be likely (not merely speculative) that the injury will be redressed (remedied/problem solved) by a favorable decision to P
***Party with procedural injury satisfies redressability even tho possibility that result will be the same after procedure is completed pg 171 Q&A
Mass. v Mellon – federal program giving payments to states to help lower maternal and infant mortality, state and individual sued together claiming Congress invaded states sovereignty (and Tax claim, see below), Ruled political issue and not judicial in character. State had not established that it suffered a direct injury to its property, finances, or physical domain, but instead presented only “abstract questions of political power, of sovereignty of government.
Lujan v Def of Wildlife –
Prudential: plaintiff must normally assert personal legal rights, not those of third parties.