Select Page

Constitutional Law I
University of Alabama School of Law
Krotoszynski, Ronald J.

Constitutional Law—Krotosynzki—Spring 2012
a)       Marbury v. Madison (1803)
i)         Highest officers of executive branch are subject to the rule of law
ii)       Executive branch has certain core powers that are discretionary and not subject to review
iii)      Supreme Court has power to invalidate certain statutes that the Court finds contravenes a provision of the Constitution
(1)     Even the lowest district courts are to decide whether or not laws are constitutional
a)       Article III §1: The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish
b)       Article III §2: The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law or equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States
i)         The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make
c)       Ex Parte McCardle (1868)
i)         Congress has the power to make exceptions and limitations to appellate jurisdiction
ii)       As long as some federal court can hear the case, there is no issue with separation of powers
(1)     The Constitution does not require that the Supreme Court have the final say on an issue, this may lie with a lower federal court
d)       United States v. Klein (1871)
i)         Congress can determine the jurisdiction of the Court [to an extent], but cannot tell the Court how to find/define a fact
e)       Congress may not expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond what was articulated in Article III in the same way they can expand the appellate jurisdiction
i)         Treats limit on original jurisdiction as a ceiling, rather than a floor
f)        The need for uniformity of decisions throughout the whole United States also calls for Federal Courts to have appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions
g)       Issues of State Lawà The Adequate and Independent State Ground
i)         State Court decisions on issues of state law cannot be reviewed by the Supreme Court. State Courts are the final expositors on the meaning of state law
ii)       State Court interpretations of issues of federal law will not be reviewed if the State Court’s judgment rests upon ‘adequate and independent’ state grounds
(1)     Procedural: When a state refuses or fails to rule on the merits of a federal issue because they were not properly presented procedurally in state court
(a)     Procedural issues will not block Supreme Court review if the procedural decision is not ‘adequate’
(2)     Substantive: Common exampleà A state court has held a state statute to be invalid under both the United States and State Constitutions
(a)     Sole issue is whether the state substantive ground is independent (no matter how the federal issue is resolved, the state ground will be dispositive)
(i)       If the State’s Constitution has been construed to adopt the Supreme Court’s view of the U.S. Constitution, then the decision is not independent, and therefore not preclusive
(ii)     When a State decisions appears to rest primarily on federal law, or to be interwoven with the federal law, and the adequacy and independence of a possible state law ground is not clear from the face of the opinion, the court will find that there is no independent basis
1.       However, if State Court states that they are using federal law as merely a non-binding precedent, and were not compelled by federal law, then the Supreme Court will find an independent state ground
a)       Advisory Opinions: “It is quite clear that the oldest and most consistent thread in the federal law of justiciability is that federal courts will not give advisory opinions
b)       Raising Constitutional Issues
i)         If the statute is made the basis of claim or defense in a suit between private individuals, the constitutional issue can be litigated
ii)       If the government brings a civil suit based on the statute, the claim of unconstitutionality can be raised in defense
iii)      IF the government institutes criminal proceedings based on a statute, the unconstitutionality of the statute is a defense
iv)     One damaged by governmental action claimed to be unconstitutional may be able to raise the issue in a suit for damages
v)       Persons held in official custody may challenge the constitutionality of their detention by writ of habeaus corpus
vi)     One may bring a suit seeking an injunction or a declaratory judgment as to the constitutionality of a statute
c)       Congress cannot tell the Court what the definition of a ‘case or controversy’ is, because then Congress, and not the Court, would be interpreting Article III § 2.
d)       Standing
i)         Three Requirements Plaintiff Must Show
(1)     Injury in fact
(2)     Traceability of the injury to the action in question
(3)     Relief sought must be something the court can grant
(a)     Must be a substantial likelihood that the relief requested will prevent or redress the claimed injury
ii)       Taxpayer Lawsuits: To es

sh the goal of being an effective government
i)         Augment of power, not a restriction of government authority
a)       Three Broad Categories Under which Congress May Assert Its Commerce Power
i)         Congress may regulate the use of channels of interstate commerce
(1)     Can include jurisdictional elements such as ‘possession of a gun that has crossed state lines near a school’
ii)       Congress is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities
iii)      Congress’ commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce
(1)     Those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce
b)       Licensing: The State may for the safety or convenience of trade, or for the protection of the health of its citizens, make regulations of commerce for its own ports and harbors, and for its own territory; and such regulations are valid unless they come into conflict with a law of Congress
i)         These are not an attempt to regulate commerce, they are essentially police laws
c)       Dormant Commerce Clause: Wherever a particular power of the general government is one which must necessarily be exercised by it and Congress remains silent, this is not only not a concession that the power is delegated to the States. On the contrary, the legitimate conclusion is that the general government intended that power should not be affirmatively exercised, and the action of the States cannot be permitted to effect that which would be incompatible with such intention
i)         Congress can neither delegate its owner powers nor enlarge those of a state
d)       Heart of Atlanta Motel: If it is interstate commerce that feels the pinch, it does not matter how local the operation which applies the squeeze
i)         The activity may still, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect in the aggregate on interstate commerce