Select Page

Constitutional Law I
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Macias, Steven J.


Macias-Spring 2012




1. Marbury v. Madison-Establishing Judicial Review-

· Articles were weak and did not give Congress (unicameral) much authority over states. The states had to voluntarily submit to authority of National Government (which causes much tumult).

· Marbury v. Madison-

o Court first held that Marbury had right to the commission he had received because it was a vested legal right he was entitled to.

o Court further said mandamus relief was proper b/c the mandamus did not involve the office of the person to whom the writ was directed, rather it involved the nature of the thing to be done.

o Judiciary Act conferred power upon Court to issue writs of mandamus to any person holding office under authority of U.S.

§ However, Judiciary Act is giving Court power to issue mandamus (this is not appellate in nature); so Congress is extending Court’s original jurisdiction. Only Constitution may do so.

o Court has duty under Constitution to strike down any laws that conflict with it.

o Thus, Marbury has right to relief, but Court cannot give it to him in this action because it is brought under Act which unconstitutionally expands Court’s original jurisdiction.

· Arguments in Support of Judicial Review-

o Textual:

§ Words of Constitution become meaningless if not adhered to

§ Article III grants Courts power to hear cases “arising” under Constitution.

§ Supremacy clause

o Judges take oath to uphold Constitution

o Framers’ Intentions (i.e. Federalist papers)

2. Is the Judiciary the Exclusive Authority in Constitutional Interpretation-

· Cooper v. Aaron-

o Can states disregard Court’s interpretation of the Constitution? No, the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, and the Court’s interpretation is binding.

o Uniformity argument-Court ensures that Constitution and its principles are uniformly interpreted throughout nation.


· Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee-

· Could Congress give Sup Ct power to review the judgments of state courts on issues of federal law (under appellate jurisdiction)

o Yes. Court’s Article III appellate power arises from case at issue, not conferral by Congress. States are not a separate judicial sovereignty regarding the interpretation of the Constitution.

§ State argued that Virginia and US courts were of different sovereignties and thus different jurisdictions.

o Jurisdiction over all cases arising under…means “all” cases.

o Supremacy clause and need for uniformity of fed laws also dictate this decision.


· 2 Prongs:

o State law has to be sufficiently adequate to resolve action

o Must be valid under state and federal constitutions

· Michigan v. Long-

· Could Sup Ct review state decision when the state decision rested on adequate and independent state grounds (involved Fourth Amendment question, but lower court also interpreted its own state constitution)

o If state court wants to rely on federal precedent without using it as binding precedent, it needs to make a clear statement to that effect to avoid federal review. If truly independent and adequate, Court will not review decision (if primarily based on state law)

o Case shows that you can have more rights granted under state constitutions, but states cannot give less rights than those guaranteed by Federal Constitution.

· Bush v. Gore

o Court basically reviews the FL Sup Cts interpretation of its own state constitution and rules that FL interpreted wrongly.

§ Says it did not give enough deference to the state legislature (who, pursuant to Art. II has Electoral powers).

o Dissent: Federal courts should defer to state high court’s interpretation of its own state constitution or laws.


· Counter-Majoritarian Role-Court acts as a brake upon politically accountable branches of gov’t. – better equipped to decide whether legislation is constitutional

o Pro: Legislatures will manifest will of majority, which may be intolerant of politically and socially unpopular minorities

o Con: Judges are unelected any thus repudiate a representative democracy

· Avoiding Counter-Majoritarian Problem-Representation Reinforcement Theory:

o Says judicial review implements majority of will of earlier generations and eliminates barriers to democratic participation.

· Stability-Court gives a settled meaning to Constitution

· Entrenched Error-Argues against judicial review; says it is too difficult to correct mistaken decisions by the Court.

· Erosion of Constitutional Responsibility by the Political Branches-other branches lose sight of constitutional issues b/c they defer to the courts


· Interpretivist-looks only to the text of the Constitution (however, most interpretevists are not this extreme, they will often look to some other form of guidance)

· Noninterpretivists-look at contemporar

to Curtail Sup Ct’s Appellate Jurisdiction-

o Implicit limitations based on judicial power contained in Art. III

o General constitutional limitations on gov’t action (e.g. Due Process Clause)

· Internal Limits on Congressional Power…

o Separation of Powers

o Cannot violate the constitution in some other way

3. Limitations on Congressional Control of the Jurisdiction of Fed Courts

4. Limitations on Congressional Power to Curtail the Jurisdiction of all Fed Courts-

· U.S. v. Klein-Congress can eliminate jurisdiction, but it cannot dictate how a court is to decide.


– Doctrines created to avoid passing prematurely on constitutional questions

· The Court will not pass on the constitutionality of a statute in a non-s=adversary proceeding (requirement for case of controversy)

· The Court will not

· The Court will not formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts

· The Court will not pass on a constitutional question although properly presented by the record if there is some other ground upon which the case may be disposed

· The Court will not pass on the validity of a satatute

· The Court will not pass on the constitutionality of a statute

· When the validity of a statute is called into question, even if serious constitutional doubt is raised, the court will try and find a construction of the statute that will avoid the constitutional question

1. Advisory Opinions-

· Courts cannot issue them b/c:

o Lack of zealous advocacy on each side

o Potential to issue overbroad ruling due to absence of real world issue

2. Standing

-Having a sufficient stake in the controversy

Purposes of Standing

Ø Separation of Powers – no general review power

Ø Efficient Use of Judicial Resources – spend time on real controversies

Ø Better Decision-Making – party with a real stake, will argue their case better, court will see the real effect of their decision

Ø Fairness-those affected by government action should decide whether to challenge it and how