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Constitutional Law I
University of Mississippi School of Law
Alexandre, Michele

Con Law I – Alexandre – Spring 2017 – University of Mississippi School of Law

The Constitution

Article I (Legislative Branch)

Section 1: Granted all legislative powers to the Congress of the United States.
Section 2 – 6: Explains how senators and representatives are selected, what their qualifications must be, etc.
Section 7: Describes the procedure that Congress must follow in order to pass a law.
Section 8: Lists the subjects upon which Congress may pass laws.
Section 9: Congress cannot suspend the writ of Habeus Corpus, pass ex post facto laws, tax exports, or give preference to one state’s ports.
Section 10: Places restrictions upon the states (cannot enter treaties or coin money, etc.)

Article II (Executive Branch)

Section 1: “The President does not act alone.”
Section 2: Places the President in charge of the military and allows him to grant pardons and appoint judges and other office holders.

Article III (Federal Judiciary)

Section 1: Vests the judicial power of the United States in the Supreme Court.
Section 2: Outlines the subject matter jurisdictions of federal courts.

Article IV – VII

IV address relations among the states.
V discusses the amendment process.
VI says “the laws of the United States shall be the “supreme laws of the land.”
VII describes the ratification process for the Constitution to take effect.

Judicial Review

Marbury v. Madison: Dawn of Justice

Marbury v. Madison (1800, pg. 46 – 53)

Adams appointed multiple justices. Marshall did not deliver all of the commissions before Jefferson took office. Does the Supreme Court have the authority to order the delivery of their commissions? The congressional act conferring that authority conflicts with Article III Section 2 of the Constitution. The judicial power in the United States extends to all cases under the Constitution and the Supreme Court is bound to decide cases according to the Constitution rather than the law when the two conflict. If a law is found to be in conflict with the Constitution, then the law is invalid. In this case, Section 13 of the Judiciary Act ran counter to the Constitution and is therefore void. Thus, lacking authority, the Supreme Court canceled Marbury’s claim.

Significance of Marbury

First Court case to apply the principle of “judicial review” – the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution. Key role in making the Supreme Court a separate branch of government on par with Congress and the executive.

Judicial Review (Marbury)

The duty of the Judiciary to say what the law is, and to decide between two conflicting laws

Constitution is highest law of the land, so Judicial system has the power and duty to determine if enacted laws are in conflict with the Constitution.
Judicial Supremacy over all matters addressing the Constitution

Judicial Powers

Power to resolve cases and controversies
Power to interpret and apply laws
Power to interpret Constitution declare statutes or executive acts unconstitutional
Power to interpret the Constitution definitively

Allen: The Doctrine of Standing

Allen v. Wright (U.S. 1984, pg. 83)

To curb racially discriminatory practices in private schools, the Internal Revenue Code denies tax-exempt status to schools which promote such practices. The Code also prohibits individuals from making tax-deductible donations to private schools which racially discriminate. Wright and others filed a nationwide class action suit arguing that the IRS had not fulfilled its obligations in enforcing these provisions of the Code and that government was encouraging the expansion of segregated education in private schools.
Did the IRS shirk its enforcement duties and encourage private schools to racially discriminate, thus, harming desegregation efforts in the nation’s public schools?
The Court found that the circumstances involved in this case did not warrant federal-court adjudication. Opinions argued that could not act since the injuries that the suit identified were not “judicially cognizable” and because they were not “fairly traceable to the assertedly unlawful conduct of the IRS.” The Court found that, by itself, an assertion that the government is not acting in the bounds of the law is not enough to bring a suit to a federal court. To allow so would open the door to a myriad of legal challenges in which the courts would become buried by the minutiae of governing, acting as “continuing monitors of the wisdom and soundness of Executive action.”

Standing: A party must have sufficient tangible and legally-enforceable stake in a controversy to bring suit


Injury-in-fact: injury must be concrete and individualized
Traceability: harm must be traceable

rant a “general veto power…upon the legislation of Congress.”

Significance of Muskrat

Established the requirement of the “case or controversy” rule
No advisory opinion where issue in dispute not present
The dispute must be “live”

Ripeness: Court will not hear a case that is brought too early where the controversy is premature

Claimed injury is contingent upon future events

Ex: a law that hasn’t been passed/implemented yet

Factors to Determine Ripeness

Probability that the predicated harm will take place
Hardship to the parties if immediate review is denied

Mootness: If the controversy no longer exists by the time a case gets to court, the court will decline to hear it

Exceptions (elements of standing must be present throughout the entire process_

Capable of repetition but evading review
Voluntary cessation with possibility of resumption
Class Actions
Wrongful Death

Slavery, the Constitution, and Judicial Powers

State v. Post (1845)

The court had to determine if an Amendment (proclaiming that “all men are by nature free and have certain inalienable rights such as to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”) abolished slavery in New Jersey. Originally NJ Const. allowed slavery, although it has a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery.
Court claimed the Amendment’s language was generic in construction. Slavery upheld.

Dred Scott (1857, pg. 645)

Court read that the word “citizen” had an implicit racial limit that excluded black people
Scott was deemed to have no standing to bring a case to the court since he was declared to not be a citizen and non-citizens could not file court cases
Court also struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional because it deprived property owners of the right to take their property (slaves) anywhere in the United States