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Constitutional Law I
St. Johns University School of Law
Barrett, John Q.

Constitutional Law Barrett Spring 2011

I. The Judicial Function

a. Judicial Power and Judicial Review

i. Judicial Reviewà process by which the Supreme Court decides if the actions of government officials are constitutional

· Marbury v. Madison (1803)—(Marbury was supposed to be appointed as a judge by the Adams administration. When the Jefferson administration came in, Secretary of State (James Madison) refused to deliver the commission. Marbury brought sought against Madison to be appointed as a judge.)

o RULE: Chief Justice Marshall said that if the Supreme Court identifies a conflict b/w a constitutional provision and a congressional statute, the Court has the authority (and the duty) to declare the statute unconstitutional and to refuse to enforce it.

ii. Article III, Sec. 2, clause 1—“The Judicial power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and treaties made….”

1. Article III, Sec. 2, clause 2—Supreme Court has original jurisdiction under certain categories and that list is limited but in all other cases Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction.

b. Judicial Supremacy

i. Supremacy Clause:

1. Article VI, clause 2—“This constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges In every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

a. The Supreme Court has the final word on a conflict arising from the Constitution.

· Cooper v. Aaron (1958)—(Arkansas state officials claimed they were not bound by a lower federal court desegregation order. They kept their schools segregated even after Brown v. Board of Ed.) The Supreme Court said “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.”

o RULE: The Supreme Court said that their interpretation of the Constitution is binding on state legislatures and executive officials.

ii. Power to Review State Court Judgments

1. Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the Supreme Court power to review the final decisions of the highest state courts on matters of federal law.

· Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816)—Supreme Court can determine whether the highest court in a state reached a decision that is not consistent with the Constitution but CANNOT review state court decisions that decide only state law.

iii. Adequate and Independent State Grounds

1. If a state judgment has BOTH adequate and independent state grounds separate from federal law, the Supreme Court will not review a case.

· Michigan v. Long (1983)—allows for searches of car compartments during a stop with reasonable suspicion. The case also clarified and narrowed the extent of adequate and independent state grounds, allowing U.S. Supreme Court review of state Supreme Court decisions UNLESS they explicitly applied to state laws.

c. Limits on Judicial Review

i. Direct Controls:

1. Amendment

a. Proposed by either a 2/3 vote of each House of Congress or by a constitutional convention called by Congress upon the application of 2/3 of the states—both must be ratified by 3/4 of state legislature or state ratification conventions.

2. Appointment

a. Article II, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution stipulates that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.”

3. Impeachment

a. Article II, section 4 provides that “all Civil officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and Misdemeanors.”

b. Article I, section 2, clause 5 vests the House of Representatives with “the sole Power of Impeachment.”

c. Article I, section 3, clause 6 gives the Senate the “sole Power to try all Impeachments” and stipulates that conviction and removal from office occurs if 2/3 of the senators present and voting concur in the House’s articles of impeachment.

ii. Congressional Power

1. Power to Establish Federal Courts

a. Article III says “such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

i. Congress may also eliminate lower federal courts at its discretion.

2. Appellate Jurisdiction

a. Article III, section 2 endows the Supreme Court with appellate jurisdiction of all cases within the federal judicial power “with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the congress shall make.”

· Ex Parte McCardle (1869)—(McCardle was imprisoned and brought a habeas corpus action charging that the Reconstruction Acts under which he was imprisoned were unconstitutional. After the Supreme Court heard both sides but before its decision, Congress passed a law repealing the portion of the Act which allowed appeals to the Supreme Court. Congress sought to deprive the Supreme Court of its right to decide habeas courses cases coming by appeal.)

o RULE: Supreme Court confirmed that Congress does have at least some power to control the boundaries of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction but may not completely strip federal courts of their power.

iii. Justiciability: The Proper Role of Federal Courts

1. Advisory Opinions—give advice about particular legislative or executive action, when no party is before the court that has suffered or imminently faces specific injury.

a. Article III, §2 of the Constitution limits federal court jurisdiction to “cases” and “controversies.”

i. Federal courts may not render advisory opinions.

2. Standing—a person has standing if he or she has a sufficient stake in the controversy

t susceptible to judicial resolution

a. Purpose of doctrine: to identify those controversies that should be decided by the “political” branches of government—executive and legislative—either b/c the Constitution requires that disposition or /c there is persuasive reason of policy to leave the decision to the political branches.

b. The most important element of the doctrine is the notion that courts will not decide cases where there is “a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department.”

i. The next most important is the idea that “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving an issue” makes the issue a nonjusticiable political question.

1. The final dimension is a related set of prudential principles that counsel against judicial decision of issues where judicial intervention would create institutional problems of great magnitude.

c. Political Question Test:

i. Baker v. Carr (1962)—constitutionality of legislative appointment schemes is not a political question

ii. Characteristics of political questions (first 2 are most important):

1. Commitment to another branch: A textual commitment of the issue in the Constitution to another branch of government.

2. Lack of standards: An inability to resolve the issue based on judicially discoverable or manageable standards.

3. Unsuitable policy determinations: An inability to decide the issue without making an initial policy determination that is not for judicial discretion.

4. Lack of respect for other branches: An inability of the court to make an independent resolution of the issue without demonstrating a lack of respect due to another branch of government.

5. Political decision already made: An exceptional need to not question a political decision already made.

6. Multiple pronouncements: The possibility of embarrassment due to different pronouncements by various departments on the same question.

d. Nixon v. United States (1993)—federal judge was to be impeached and the senate delegated a committee to senators to have the hearings. Nixon argued that Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 was violated if the entire senate did not “try” the impeachment. Court held that Nixon’s question was a non-justiciable political question.