Constitutional Law Outline
Professor Kathleen Bergin
I) ROLE OF THE SUPREME COURT IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER
A) History, Theory, Sources and Control
1) Judicial Review – The Supreme Court has the obligation to declare federal statutes invalid if they contradict the Constitution.
2) Final Arbiter of the Law – the Supreme Court is to have judicial power extending to all cases arising under this Constitution (thus the Supreme Court can interpret the constitution).
3) Supremacy Clause (Art VI, §1(1)) – The laws of the US (made pursuant to the Constitution), the Constitution and federal Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land.
4) Review of State Court Decisions – The US Supreme Court may (via writ of certiorari) hear appeals for the highest state court on questions of federal law (including Constitutional review).
a. Supreme Court review extends to “all cases arising under” the Constitution – implying all state laws are subject to Constitutional review.
b. This is necessary to maintain judicial consistency throughout the nation.
5) Necessary and Proper – This clause gives Congress the right to create laws necessary and proper for the accomplishment of enumerated Constitutional obligations of any branch (under ART. I §8).
6) Horizontal power struggle – fight for power between branches of the federal government amongst themselves.
7) Vertical Power Struggle – fight for power between branches of government spanning state and federal government (IE federal review of state law).
8) Representation Reinforcement (accountability) – people get a say in their government via voting and this serves as a check on politicians.
9) Methods of Constitutional Interpretation
a. Textual – look to the exact text of the Constitution for answers (strict interpretation).
b. Functional – If the US is to work, this is how things have to be. Esp. the Constitution furthers federalism and checks and balances.
c. Structural Argument – draw meaning from where a Constitutional provision is found (IE a clause in a section granting power is probably a grant of power).
d. Voter Reinforcement – the constitution should always be interpreted to allow voter reinforcement.
e. Natural Law – Is there an overriding legal compact ruling over unstated Constitutional questions? IE If a law isn’t covered under the Constitution, then it is ruled by the natural law established by the founders. Or is this just too subjective (to any given person’s ideas of natural law)?
f. Living Document – Interpretation of the Constitution as a living body should allow the Constitution to “flex” as need be. The constitution is a set of guidelines, not a codified set of laws.
g. International Law – the court may take into consideration international law in determining constitutional meaning.
10) Federalism – A system of co-existing federal and state governments with powers reserved to both.
a. Enumerated powers
6) Declaratory Judgments – Valid judicial decision regarding legal ramifications of specific conduct of parties after the law has passed.
C) Standing (3 Parts)
1) Specific Injury (concrete invasion and particularized injury) – The complaint must show a specific injury (actual or imminent) to the π, not to an injury to a class of people as a whole. (IE no standing if all blacks are hurt.)
a. You can’t simply allege that the government isn’t obeying the law.
b. Generally a taxpayer can’t allege injury due to improper use of funds.
2) Direct Causation – The alleged harm must be directly traceable to the actions of the Δ (if the relief is granted, the injury must necessarily be fixed)
a. 3rd Party Causation Problem – if the causal chain between injury and cause goes through a 3rd party, then even if the relief is given, the question remains if the harm will be necessarily redressed.
3) Redressability – The court has to be able to give the requested relief (within judicial abilities). No mere speculation of redressability.
Q: What level of improvement need be present for redressability to present (IE complete/partial/teeny-weenie improvement).