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Constitutional Law I
University of Mississippi School of Law
Cochran, George C.

Constitutional Law I
Spring 2007
Prof. Cochran

Table of Cases

Case Name: Un/Constitutional Facts: Holding:

Interpretation of the 8th Amd.

Atkins v. VA,
536 US 304


VA wants to execute a mentally retarded defendant

Would violate the 8th Amd.

Roper v. Simmons,
543 US 551


MO wants to execute a 17-yr old.

Would violate 8th Amd. C&UP must be judged according to “evolving standards of decency”

Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber,
329 US 459


Black male convicted of rape and sentenced to death. First try at electrocution didn’t kill him. LA Sheriff wants to try again.

Reed went back to English common law and found cases where criminals were unsuccessfully executed and allowed to be killed again.

Rupe v. Wood,
863 FSupp 1307


WA man weighs 409 lbs. He’s sentenced to death by hanging.

Violates 8th Amd.

Overton v. Bazzetta


MI state prisons ban visitation with non-immediate family and no visitation for two years for prisoners w/ drug problems.

Prison rules are NOT C&UP if they are rationally related to a “legitimate penalogical objective.”

Marbury v. Madison,
5 US 137


The Federal Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to writs of mandamus. P was appointed to judgeship by Pres Adams. Pres Jefferson refused to make his Sec of State deliver commission. P applied to USSCt for writ of mandamus to compel the Sec of State to deliver the commission.

Marshall interprets U.S. Const. art. III, § 2 Clause 2 as NOT allowing Congress to change or add to the Court’s original jurisdiction. By doing so and ruling that the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional (so he was without JD to issue the writ), he established the Court’s power of Judicial Review: Where the Constitution of the US as interpreted by the USSCt conflicts w/ law enacted by Congress, the Ct may declare such laws unconstitutional and invalid.

Cooper v. Aaron,
358 US 1


AR governor refused to follow integration law passed by US Congress

The Constitution is the “supreme” law of the land and No elected official can “war against” it w/o subverting his duty to it.

Scheur v. Rhodes,
416 US 232


OH governor authorized use of force on Vietnam war protestors at Kent State Univ.

General executive immunity from suit for official acts is removed when the officer acts under state law in a way violative of the Fed Constitution

Nixon v. Fitzgerald,
457 US 731


Fitz sued former president for damages from acts while he was in office

President is immune from suit for acts while in office relating to his duties.
When presidential act is ministerial (mandated by legislation) can sue; when act is discretionary, cannot

Jones v. Clinton,
520 US 681


Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment while he was Governor of Arkansas

No immunity for president from civil action for acts outside of office


Is the case “Justiciable” (can the Court hear it)?

When the court gets a case that is so volatile that answering the question will impose more harm then good.

Also, ct knows they are powerless to enforce in some situations. This is one of the reasons Marshall decided Marbury as he did.

Baker v. Carr,
369 US 186


Plaintiffs sued claiming that TN state constitutions apportionment voting clause violated Equal Protection

Apportionment is the act the proportional distribution of the number of members of the legislative body on the basis of the population of each state or voting district (dividing up the votes in a legislative body);
to be distinguished from gerrymandering which is redrawing or dividing up a geographical area’s voting districts to gain an advantage for one party in an election

Court held this is justiciable and not a political question
6-part test for non-justiciable acts:
(1) a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or (2) a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or (3) the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion; or (4) the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or (5) an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or (6) the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question

Luther v. Borden,
48 US 1

Political Question

RI Rebellion. Suit brought under Art. IV, Sec. 4 which requires a republican form of gov’t.

Ct. dodges issue and says this is a political question, not judicial. Ct. knew it had no power to stop rebellion.

MA v. Laird,
400 US 886

Political Question

MA legislature enacted statute requiring attorney general to bring suit on behalf of citizens of state to have Vietnam War declared unconstitutional. US Congress had power to declare war (Art.I), and didn’t.

USSC ruled this was a political question.

The USSCt has final say in “constitutionality” of laws but will not decide cases of political questions that are likely to degrade the government and the relationship between the branches.

Largess v. Supreme Court of Massachusetts, 317 FSupp2d 77


MA state legislatures sued the MA supreme court for violating republican form of gov’t when it held same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

Issue of validity of State high court’s holding was justiciable under MA constitution.

McCulloch v. Maryland,
17 US 316


MD statute taxing Bank of US.

Justice Marshall was personally involved in the case through his part in creating the Bank of the US

USSCt held that Congress had the authority to create the Bank of US through Necessary and Proper Clause. Opinion put forth idea that Constitution is a living document.
Pretext power as stated by Marshall: “Should Congress, in the execution of its powers, adopt measures which are prohibited by the constitution; or should Congress under the pretext of executing its powers, pass laws for the accomplishment of objects not entrusted to the gov’t; it would be the duty of the Ct to declare it unconstitutional”

Laird v. Tatum, 409 US 824

No Recusal Necessary

Suit brought to compel Reihnquist to recuse himself b/c of statements made about what the law should be before case was heard.

That Supreme Court justice prior to taking office had expressed public view as what the law was or ought to be did not require recusal in case raising that particular question

Cheney v. US Dist. Ct. for DC, 541 US 913

No Recusal Necessary

Suit brought against VP with whom Justice Scalia is a personal friend.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s friendship or appearance of friendship with Vice President did not require Justice’s recusal.
“If you can’t trust a Supreme Court Justice to be impartial, who can you trust?”

Camanetti v. US,
242 US 470


Fed law makes it illegal to take woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.” (Mann Act)

Police power (protecting, health, safety, welfare, and morals)

Palmer v. Thompson,
403 US 223


MS city council, in ‘60’s, closed public pools. Blacks argued it was race-based (to prevent integration). City argued it was economical.

Ct. ruled closures were valid exercise of city’s police power to maintain peace and order, and did not violate 13th or 14th Amd.

City of Memphis v. Green,
451 US 100


TN city barricading street between white and black neighborhoods causing blacks to go around to get to town.

Does not violate the 13Amd because of legitimate government purpose of avoiding traffic problems and ensuring child safety.

Bills of Attainder:


Legislated punishment for a past act against a specific person w/o judicial intervention

Art. I, §§ 9-10: Prohibits bills of attainder. Applies to both state and federal gov’ts.

3 Elements: (must apply retroactively)
1) Legislative determination of guilt.
2) Applies to specific persons (readily identifiable)
3) Law amounts to “Actual Punishment”

Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific RR,
118 US 394


Fed and State laws regulating a specific RR Co. to enable other RRs to connect and costs RR money.

Extends 14Amd to corporations

US v. Lovett,
328 US 303


Federal law cuts off pay to three federal employees and prohibits them from future gov’t work b/c of association w/ Communist Party.

The persons being attained must be easily identified or ascertained. They were named in the bill.

Seariver Maritime v. Mineta,
309 F.3d 662


Fed Law: Prohibited any vessel that had spilt more than 1 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound since 1989.

Exxon Valdez only vessel this applied to. However, the law did not prohibited the owners from entering the sound, only the vessel. The gov’t had a legitimate environmental concern. This was not punishment.

Ex Post Facto Laws—law prohibiting conduct and applied retroactively to people who broke the law before it was passed



Art. I, §8, “The Congress shall have power to regulate Commerce…among the several states.”

Power given to Congress to Regulate Commerce is broadly construed and it “comprehends” navigation as well as “every species of commercial intercourse.

Gibbons v. Ogden,
22 US 1


NY law granted monopoly on steamboats to X. Y was later licensed under Fed law to run steamboats on same waterway.

Supremacy Clause-Fed law preempts state law. Marshall used Gibbons to make point about Commerce Power of Fed’l Gov’t- broad view.
1. Congress can regulate all commerce that affects more than one state, even if action is completely intrastate. (Affection Doctrine)
2. Commerce power is delegated to Congress and limited by the political process.
3. States can regulate, so long as it does not conflict w/ an act of Congress.

US v. EC Knight,
156 US 1


Fed Gov’t sought to bar P’s monopoly on sugar production by claiming violation of Sherman Act.

USSC affirmed the dismissal of action. Congress cannot, under CC regulate manufacturing. Manufacturing had only an incidental and indirect effect on commerce. CC regulation needs direct and logical relationship. Ct found no “formal and logical nexus” b/t manufacturing and interstate commerce. Manufacturing left to states.

Camanetti and Cleveland (above)


No carrying women across state lines; No Mormons carrying wives across State lines

No need to have a “commercial purpose” to be regulated under the Commerce Clause

Kidd v. Pearson,
128 US 1


IA state leg passed law prohibiting the manufacture of alcohol intended for export to other states.

States law regulating manufacturing upheld. Doesn’t affect IC.

US v. SE Underwriters Ass’n,
322 US 533


Insurance companies conspired to set rates to halt efforts of out-of-state companies

Court more broadly construed Commerce to include interstate insurance transactions regulated under Sherman Act

Stafford v. Wallace,
258 US 495


Fed law regulating the business of commission men and livestock dealers in American stockyards

Congress’ fears of conspiracies in stockyards that may affect other State’s commerce is enough to subject it to regulation.

Swift & Co. v. US,
196 US 375


Sherman Act injunction entered b/c of price fixing by meatpackers.

Ct established “Stream of Commerce” rationale. Fed’l meat price fixing regulations which affected meat bought and sold in one state w/ the expectation that it would go to another state are constitutional.

Mandeville Island Farms v. Am. Crystal Sugar Co.,
334 US 219


3 sugar manufacturers in CA set one price to pay local beet farmers.

Violation of Sherman Act. Although intrastate, price fixing did restrain trade. Price of sugar in other states affected (affection doctrine) and sugar is in stream of commerce (Stream of Commerce), so Congress can regulate. Overruled E.C. Knight.

Goldfarb v. VA State Bar,
421 US 773


VA State Bar Assn. set price for title searches done by lawyers. State bar argued lawyers were profession, not business.

Ct ruled that anti-competitive conduct by lawyers was w/in reach of Sherman Act. Although intrastate, this affected other states (interstate real estate transactions).

Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League,
259 US 200


“Other” baseball league sues the NL for being a monopoly in violation of Anti-Trust law and in restraint of interstate commerce

Justice Holmes: Professional baseball is exempt from Anti-Trust and Commerce Clause regulation b/c it is the national pastime. The business of giving exhibitions of baseball, which are purely state affairs, does not become interstate because, in order to give the exhibitions, free persons must be induced to cross state lines, since the transport is a mere incident and not the essential thing.

Toolson v. NY Yankees,
346 US 356



ALL activities within that class are covered, no matter how big or small. But Congress’ declarations are reviewable
Rehnquist’s concurrence wants a “rational basis test.” (Note: Rehnquist would later be the majority)

Slingluff v. OSHA,
425 F.3d 861


OSHA safety requirements; two-man Stucco Company held unsafe

Can be regulated under the CC b/c “aggregation” and “affection” and Hodel “class” rule.

US v. Lopez,
514 US 549


D convicted for violating the Gun Free School Zones Act (having gun w/in 1000 ft of school)

Act struck down as a violation of federal commerce power. This was a non-economic activity. No substantial relationship to IC. For Congress to regulate w/ commerce power, the activity must be economic. Ct identified 3 broad categories of activities that Congress can regulate under the CC:
1. the use of channels of IC.
2. the instrumentalities of IC
3. Activities that substantially affect IC (must be economic). This was the first time since J&L Steele that the Ct found Congress unconstitutionally exercised commerce power.
Kennedy concurs: be careful not to let Congress regulate a traditional state function (schools).

US v. Morrison,
529 US 598


2 men convicted under Violence Against Women Act which prohibited gender motivated crimes.

CC did not provide Congress w/ authority to enact a civil remedy for gender motivated crimes unless it substantially affects IC. Rehnquist: Ct will uphold CC regulation of intrastate activity only where that activity is economic in nature. VAWA had little to do w/ commerce. Aggregation could not be used, b/c crime was non-economic. Not enough that congress had a rational basis for act, they must meet Cts independent satisfaction.
Morrison defined the third category in Lopez, activities affecting IC:
First: activity regulated must be commercial.
Second: if not commercial, must have jurisdictional element.

Gonzalez v. Raich,
545 US 1


Controlled Substances Act used to prevent state citizens from possessing, obtaining, manufacturing, or providing cannabis for medical use. Users and growers sued Attny General Ashcroft challenging the constitutionality of the CSA (new Attny. Gen. Gonzalez)

Same as Wickard but with weed instead of wheat.

Sabri v. US,
541 US 600


Fed statute prohibiting bribing a State official employed by a State or local gov’t that receives $ from Fed. gov’t

Constitutional b/c N&P to carry out “providing for the general welfare (Art II).

Jones v. US, 529 US 848


Federal arson statute prohibiting arson on any building or property used in IC, or affecting IC. D firebombs his cousin’s house which rec’d natural gas, a mortgage, and an insurance policy.

Does not apply to non-commercial, residential buildings b/c arson of a home does not “affect” IC. The court held that the provision covered only property currently used in commerce or in an activity affecting commerce, and an owner-occupied residence not used for any commercial purpose did not qualify.

Rewis v. US,
401 US 808


Fed statute prohibiting using facility in IC to engage in gambling

Unconstitutional b/c no “nexus.”

Marshall v. Rose,
616 F.2d 102


Employer held in violation of FLSA for not paying domestic (household) workers minimum wage.

Constitutional under CC through third category, affecting interstate commerce. This is economic in nature, so aggregate. Looking at all domestic workers, there is an effect on IC.

Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. US Army Corp of Engineers,
531 US 159


Army Corp. of Eng’rs tried to regulate non-navigable and purely intrastate ponds that exist on dormant mine land through authority given under the Clean Water Act. Waste Agency wanted to turn area into garbage dump, but Army Corp claimed authority b/c birds crossed state lines and used wetlands.

Army Corp exceeded statutory authority granted in the Clean Water Act. Congress did not intend to grant this authority to the Army to expand jurisdiction in this manner.

Rapanos v. US,
126 S.Ct 2208

Unconstitutional (per Scalia)

Clean Water Act challenged by guy who wanted to develop land and illegally filled in a ditch that US said was “navigable waters” defined as including “tributaries” and “wetlands” adjacent to navigable waters.

No majority opinion (4-1-4) as to applicability of “navigable waters” definition to defendant’s land.
Scalia, etc.—Π’s lands do NOT meet definition of “navigable waters”
Kennedy—need a reasonable “nexus” test b/w lands and stream.
Souter, etc.—Π’s lands DO meet definition of adjacent “wetlands”

Marks v. US, 430 US 188


Ds convicted under Fed law prohibiting the transport of obscene materials that was passed after they did it.

For precedent, where there is no “holding” or plurality opinion, follow the concurring opinion w/ the narrowest grounds; t4 Rapanos should have been decided using Kennedy’s “nexus” test.


Art. I, § 8, cl. 1

South Dakota v. Dole,
483 US 203


Federal regulation- any state receiving federal highway funds must have drinking age of 21. Penalty of 5% reduction in funds for non-compliance.

Four-part test for Spending Power exercise (grant) constitutionality (as long as not to coerce the state):
(1) For the General Welfare (national public purpose)
(2) Has Unambiguous Purpose
(3) Grant’s Conditions must be “related” to the purpose of the Fed Act.
(4) Must not be in conflict w/ any other Constitutional provision.
8-1 opinion upholds incentives. This is the only big case by the court regarding the spending power.