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Constitutional Law I
University of South Carolina School of Law
Powell, Burnele Venable

Powell_Con Law I_Fall_2011

I. Limits on the Federal Judiciary

a. Limits of the Federal Courts

i. Article III of the Constitution restricts the federal judiciary by setting the boundaries on subject-matter jurisdiction.

ii. Article III also limits the power of the judiciary through the justifiability doctrines

1. Ripeness

2. Advisory Opinions

3. Mootness

4. Political Question Doctrine

5. Standing

iii. Congress

1. The Congress can limit the reach of the Courts by statute.

2. Per Article III, § 2, Congress can create “exceptions and regulations” to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

b. Marbury v. Madison

i. Facts- In the waning days of his presidency, John Adams appointed, among others, William Marbury to be a Justice of the Peace. Marbury’s commission was not delivered before the new president, Thomas Jefferson, was inaugurated. Jefferson told his Secretary of State, James Madison, not to tender Marbury a commission, despite the order given by the previous commander-in-chief. Marbury, in turn, sought a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court, directing Secretary Madison to deliver the commission. Marbury’s argument was that he had a vested right in the position, pursuant to President Adams’ order, and that the Judiciary Act of 1789 granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over writs of mandamus such as his.

ii. Issues

1. Did Marbury have a right to the commission?

a. Yes, because all procedures were followed. The commission was completed when it was singed by the President & there a seal affixed to it.

2. Do the laws of the US afford him a remedy?

a. Mandamus is appropriate where the executive has a legal duty to perform. If the executive has discretion (vetos, appointments, etc.) then it is not appropriate.

3. Could the Supreme Court issue the Writ of Mandamus?

iii. Holding: The court ruled against Marbury holding the court did not have original jurisdiction over the case. The act granting them original jurisdiction was unconstitutional. A statute can’t grant original jurisdiction beyond situations enumerated in the Constitution (Article III, Section II).

iv. Four themes of Marbury v. Madison

1. The Constitution (“CXN”) is the “Supreme Law of the Land” à If there is a conflict between a Congressional statute and the CXN, the CXN must prevail.

a. Textual Argument: In the Supremacy Clause of Article VI the Constitution is first mentioned.

2. The SupCt is the final arbiter of the CXN à It is the Court’s job to state, at any given time, to interpret the laws enacted by Congress.

3. Art. III is the ceiling of the federal courts’ jurisdiction à Congress may not expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

4. Separation of Powers

a. Legislative vs. Executive vs. Judiciary

i. “The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written.”

v. Brilliance of Marshall’s Opinion

1. He avoided a political showdown

2. Cemented a place for the Supreme Court in the political order

3. Was able to comment on the three branches.

4. His thoughts on democracy-The powers of the congress/judiciary must be limited. Judicial review allows us to stay within the confines of the CXN.

5. Historical Arguments: We looked at the intent of the framer’s during the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. This helps bolster out domestic stature.

c. Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee

i. Facts- There was 2 conflicting claims to certain land in the state of VA. P claimed that he got the land based on an inheritance from a British citizen. There was a treaty b/t the US and Britain to protect British interests in US land. D claimed that VA had taken the land before the treaties had taken affect & thus the P did not have a valid claim. The S.C. reversed a VA Ct. of Appeals decision in favor of the D, arguing that the federal treaty was controlling. The SC held the CXN confers to them the right to review state court decisions.

1. Argument:

a. SC is only given original jurisdiction over a few things. Congress creates the lower courts & if they didn’t create any, the SC would only hear a very few cases.

b. Historical Argument: The framer’s intended the Supreme Court to have a much larger scope b/c they recognized that the states have prejudices/jealousies that may make it difficult for them to be impartial.

c. The Supreme Court makes sure that there is uniformity in the interpretation of the federal laws.

2. Importance: This case established the SC’s right to review cases arising out of states from their highest courts.

d. Cohens v. Virginia- Two men were arrested for selling lottery tix in violation of VA law. The defendants sought review in the SC b/c they argued that the CXN protected their right to the sell the tix. VA argued the SC had no authority to review the case, especially since it was a criminal case with the state as a party.

i. Holding: State courts often have elected judges that depend on votes/legislature. Criminals may appeal to the SC when they claim that their conviction violated the CXN.

e. Cooper v. Aaron-

i. Facts

1. A federal district court ordered the desegregation of public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. The state refused to comply and argued that it was not bound to comply with judicial desegregation decrees.

ii. Holding: In addition to reviewing state court decisions, the SC may also review the constitutionality of state laws and the actions of state officials.

iii. Textual Arguments:

1. Article VI-The Supremacy Clause, makes the CXN the supreme law of the land.

2. Article VI- “Every state legislator and executive and judicial officer is solemnly committed by oath to support this CXN”

f. District of Columbia v. Heller

i. Facts: DC has ordinances that essentially prohibit the ownership of handguns. You could only carry a handgun if you were granted a license (1 yr.) from the Chief of Police. If you had a gun in the home, it had to be stored in a way that left it basically inoperable. The P was a police officer that could carry guns at work but couldn’t own one for his private use. He sued seeking to enjoin the DC f

Regulations Clause (Article III, Section II):

1. The Congress has the ability to limit the Court’s appellate jurisdiction under the Exceptions and Regulations Clause.

2. Since Congress took away their jurisdiction by repealing that portion of the statute, they had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

3. “We are not at liberty to inquire into the motives of the legislature. We can only examine its power under the CXN.”

4. Appellate jurisdiction is derived from the CXN but subject to such “exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make.”

h. United States v. Klein

i. Facts- During Reconstruction, Congress passed a statute that would allow people whose property was seized during the Civil War to have it returned or be compensated after the proved they didn’t help the enemy during the war. The Supreme Court then held that a presidential pardon was sufficient proof. The Congress responded by creating a statute providing that a pardon is not admissible & furthermore, a pardon without an express denial would be insufficient evidence for one to get back their stuff. If the pardon was your proof, the jurisdiction provided to the federal court would terminate & the case would be dismissed.

1. Congresses actions in creating the statute were unconstitutional b/c the aggrandized on the power of the other 2 branches.

a. Judicial Branch

i. It surpassed the power under Article III, Section II’s Exceptions and Regulations Clause. They gave the court the power and took it away when the result was not what they wanted.

ii. This is an improper exercise of the exceptions and regulations power on appellate jurisdiction.

b. Executive Branch

i. Congress was trying to nullify the impact of Presidential Pardons.

ii. This was an unconstitutional infringement on the President’s power as outlined in Article II.

2. Congressional limitations on jurisdiction are ineffective if they violate the separation of powers.

ii. Article III, Section II lays out the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

iii. This jurisdiction maybe restricted under the Congress’ exercise of the Exceptions and Regulations Clause.

1. However, it cannot be improperly exercised at it was in US v. Klein. The court here was trying to direct the outcome of the cases by taking away jurisdiction when the result didn’t comport with what they wanted.

2. Per, Marbury v. Madison, Congress cannot expand the original jurisdiction beyond the limited scope enumerated in Article III.