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Constitutional Law Survey
University of North Carolina School of Law
Papandrea, Mary-Rose

Constitutional Law
Spring 2013
Mary-Rose Papandrea
Part I: Constitutional Structure
       I.            Federal Judicial Power
1.      Judicial Review
                                                              i.      Marbury v. Madison
1.      Golden Rule: Congress cannot write statutes that go beyond the Constitution
2.      Establishes authority of courts to review executive actions
a.       EXCEPT in cases involving political questions
3.      Article III is the “ceiling” for federal court jurisdiction
4.      Establishes authority for judicial review of legislative acts
                                                            ii.      Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816) (CB 10)
1.      Background: Dispute over land that led to the establishment that the Court could bind states with their rulings. VA claimed that they were sovereign, Court rejected that argument and held that Court had appellate jurisdiction.
2.      Structure of Constitution presumes Court can review state court decisions
a.       Congress could have decided not to create lower courts; if it did that, SCOTUS would have only original jurisdiction (and that would not amount to much)
3.      Need uniformity in interpretation of federal law; distrust state courts
a.       see also Cohens v. VA (1821) (CB 10)
                                                                                                                                      i.      Reaffirms that Court can hear and decide cases in which a state is a party. Court can declare state laws unconstitutional, but state’s interpretation of their own laws is final.
2.      Methods of Interpretation
                                                              i.      Originalism v. Non-Originalism
1.      Originalism: Rights limited to those explicit in text, intended by founders, and/or supported by history and tradition.
a.       Aims to limit discretion of the Court
b.      Rely on constitutional amendment process for constitutional evolution
c.       Ex: Nothing in Constitution about reproductive freedom à no constitutional right
d.      Concerns
                                                                                                                                      i.      Rarely have straightforward textual basis for a right. Constitution as written is broad and often vague terms. Not a legal code
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Question of what the founders intended: Not that easy to determine because
1.      Many people involved in the ratification of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and amendments. Many, possibly conflicting, intentions
2.      History can be unclear, malleable
3.      Specific or abstract intent?
4.      Depends on how you define the right and tradition at issue
2.      Non-Originalism: Not bound by text, original intent, history, or tradition
a.       Consider evolving norms; belief in “living Constitution”
b.      Constitution inherently counter-majoritarian
c.       Amendment process too cumbersome
d.      Concerns
                                                                                                                                      i.      Gives judges too much discretion to decide cases based on personal preferences
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Empowers unelected judges to undermine choices of the people’s political representatives
                                                                                                                                  iii.      When there is doubt/lack of clarity about constitutional issue, courts should not interfere with political process
                                                                                                                                  iv.      Lack of evidence that framers intended to delegate creation of new rights to judges
                                                            ii.      Modalities of Constitutional Interpretation
1.      Text
2.      Structure
3.      Intent
4.      State Constitutions
5.      Prior Drafts
6.      Current State Laws
3.      Historical Practices
8.      Tradition
9.      Contemporaneous Interpretation
10.  Consequences
11.  Precedent
12.  Morality
                                                          iii.      District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) (CB 13)
1.      Held that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, not merely for militia service but also self-defense. Court focused on text.
a.       “Arms” ≠ muskets
b.      Emphasis on the “home”
c.       2A protects weapons “in common use”; not dangerous and unusual weapons
d.      Longstanding prohibitions still good – possession by felons or mentally ill; guns in schools or government buildings
2.      2A: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
3.      Standard of Review
a.       Circuit courts 2-step approach
                                                                                                                                      i.      Does law impinge upon right protected by 2A?
1.      Ex. Machine guns
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Longstanding laws are presumed lawful
1.      Can be challenged only if more than a “de minimis” effect on right
a.       Ex. Registration requirements
b.      Circuit courts: Level of scrutiny depends on degree to which the law burdens the right
                                                                                                                                      i.      Not substantial burden à intermediate scrutiny
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Substantial burden à strict scrutiny
4.      Textual Method: Looking at the same language in other parts of the Constitution
a.       1A, 4A – “the right of the people”; 9A, 10A – “the people”
                                                                                                                                      i.      No dispute that “the people” means everyone
b.      Prefatory Clause – “A well regulated Militia . . . free State”
                                                                                                                                      i.      Scalia: Doesn’t limit operative clause, but complements it
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Stevens: Reveals framers were thinking of militias
1.      Marbury: Every constitutional provision/words must mean something
c.       “To keep and bear Arms”
                                                                                                                                      i.      Scalia: looks at phrases separately; includes new arms, not just those at founding
1.      Scalia uses dictionary from founding to define “Arms”
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Stevens: read phrases together, weapons in terms of military use
5.      Drafting History
a.       Prior drafts and analogous state constitutional provisions
                                                                                                                                      i.      Decisions to leave out language, don’t know why it was left out
                                                                                                                                    ii.      May help figure out what is meant/words mean
                                                                                                                                  iii.      What the drafters knew about; ideas how to draft Constitution
b.      Scalia: right to bear arms independent from military service
c.       Stevens: state provisions overwhelmingly indicate concern for standing army and need to protect militia, not self-defense
6.      Historical Modality: Immediate post-ratification understanding
a.       What did people at the time think the provision meant.
b.      Look to scholars at the time—they have better understanding of society and language.
c.       Just because close in time, don’t mean they are true to the aspirations of the founders.
7.      Precedent
a.       Treatment of United States v. Miller (1939)
                                                                                                                                      i.      Scalia: About weapon at issue, not militia. Plus issue wasn’t really argued.
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Stevens: Case held 2A protected only militia. And there are no new facts or arguments to undermine prior case.
b.      Nothing is sacred; if Court is wrong, no reason to stick to precedent because then it would be perpetuating an error
c.       Keeping to precedent upholds trust in institution, stability
d.      Rule becomes unworkable; justices thought it would work one way but it didn’t
3.      Limits on the Federal Judicial Power
                                                              i.      External checks on SCOTUS
1.      Impeachment
2.      Presidential nomination
3.      Senate confirmation
4.      Constitutional Amendments (Article V)
5.      Congressional power to regulate/restrict federal jurisdiction
                                                            ii.      Interpretative Limits
1.      Self-imposed
2.      Not uniform
3.      Sometimes inconsistent
4.      Originalism v. Non-Originalism
a.       Choice of theory based on view of Constitution and role of Court
b.      See above
                                                          iii.      Principles o

b.      Congress’s powers are expansive
c.       States cannot interfere with federal government activities
                                                          iii.      United States v. Comstock
1.      Facts: Challenge under N&P clause to the Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act by a group of sex offenders who sought to dismiss petitions that attempted to indefinitely “commit” them under the Act.
2.      Majority (Breyer): Affirms McCulloch. The Court must determine if the means used are rationally and actually calculated to achieve the Constitutionally desired end. Upholds law because of the breadth of the N&P clause, the long history of federal involvement in this area, the sound reasons of the statute’s enactment in light of the government’s custodial interest in protecting the public, accommodation of state interest (federal program only if state’s cannot take the prisoners), and statute’s narrow scope.
3.      Dissent (Thomas): No federal police powers—taking care of the mentally ill is within the states powers.
b.      The Commerce Clause
                                                              i.      “The Congress shall have the power…[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
                                                            ii.      Scope
1.      Commonly laws will have magic words “in or affecting interstate commerce”
2.      Power not unlimited, but not clear what the limits are
                                                          iii.      1st Phase (Gibbons): Adopted an expansive view of the scope of the Commerce Clause
1.      Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
a.       Commerce not limited to buying and selling
                                                                                                                                      i.      “Intercourse for purposes of trade”
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Instrumentalities of commerce (navigation
b.      Congress can regulate intrastate activities that have “interstate” effects, but anything completely internal is not subject to CC
                                                                                                                                      i.      “among” = more than one State (must “extend to or affect other States”
                                                                                                                                    ii.      Leaves open what sort of “effect” is required
                                                                                                                                  iii.      No power over “completely internal” activities
c.       Argument today: nothing can be done w/o having an effect on the economy, so can regulate all commerce
                                                          iv.      2nd Phase (late 19C-1937): Narrow approach à Invalidated many federal laws as exceeding authority of the Commerce Clause; Limiting function of 10A
1.      Analysis
a.       “Commerce” vs. “Police Power” regulation
b.      “Local” vs. “National”
c.       “Direct” vs. “Indirect”
d.      Limiting function of 10A
e.       Broader commitment to laissez-faire economics
2.      United States v. E.C. Knight Co. (1895)
a.       Police powers are exclusive power of states; fed government cannot intrude on them
                                                                                                                                      i.      Power of state to protect “lives, health, and property of its citizens, and to preserve good order ant the public morals” (CB 146)
b.      Manufacturing ≠ Commerce (arbitrary line)
c.       Dissent (Harlan): People of all states agreed to CC and federal laws help people in all states
                                                                                                                                      i.      Collective action problem—states don’t work together to eliminate monopolies, act in their own interests