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Constitutional Law I
St. Johns University School of Law
Weinberg, Philip

Constitutional Law I – Weinberg
Fall 2007
General Constitutional Law Principles
Where the Federal Const. provides protections, the State Consts. can always provide more protection for civil rights than the Federal Const. BUT not less. à States can enlarge but NOT narrow the rights granted to us by the Const.
State Consts. Contain the same general provisions as the US Const.
US Supreme Court (SC) generally serves in its appellate jurisdiction.
SC has total discretion as to what cases it selects to hear à SC must grant certiorari
SC in its appellate role can hear appeals from Federal Courts of Appeal and the highest State courts (in Federal Question Cases)
Establishes that Federal Courts are the final interpreters of federal law
Federal judges are better suited to determine federal law b/c they are appointed, not elected (state judges are elected) à federal judges are not as susceptible to outside political influence
SC can only hear cases of federal law or diversity jurisdiction
SC has original jurisdiction in:
Suits between States
Cases involving ambassadors or public ministers
Applications for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Challenging A Statute
Facial challenge: the statute is never going to be constitutional, the facts don’t mater b/c there is no way that it will be validly applied to anyone
As applied challenge: in your specific client’s case the statute is unconstitutional (client has to have standing to make the appropriate challenge)
Writ of Certiorari
Writ necessary to bring a case before the SC or the highest State court
Courts do not grant writs for every case, but instead choose what cases warrant the court’s attention (only 4 votes necessary to grant certiorari)
SC is most likely to grant certiorari when there is a split in the Appellate Circuit Courts on the same issue.
Failure to grant certiorari does not mean that the court approves of the holding, but only that it did not feel that the case was important enough to hear.
Writ of Mandamus
Writ asking the court to compel the govt. to do something which you are entitled to by law, but which the govt. has not yet delivered
To be entitled to a mandamus order against a govt. official the P must have a clear lega

whether it is constitutional or not, and enjoin the executive from enforcing the law
If the statute/law/act of government is not constitutional à VOID
BUT courts avoid declaring laws unconstitutional where possible b/c:
Separation of powers
To avoid overbroad holdings that have wide-reaching effects
If courts did NOT have the power to review actions of the legislature or executive, then the other branches could pass unconstitutional laws that require enforcement.
BUT passing and enforcing unconstitutional statutes = amending the Const.
Const. is NOT supposed to be changed so easily à to amend the Const. requires 2/3 vote of BOTH House and Senate and 3/4 majority vote of the States
Supremacy Clause (Art. VI):  The US Const., federal laws, US treaties are the supreme law of the land AND overrides any state statute.
State statutes can NOT contradict or violate the US Const.