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Constitutional Law I
Villanova University School of Law
Lanctot, Catherine J.


Practical Material: Important Terms and Notes

Strict Scrutiny: legislature must have significantly abridged a fundamental right, or, have passed a law that involves a suspect classification

to overcome the unconstitutional presumption, the gov’t must successfully meet these 3 tests:

1) Did gov’t have a compelling interest in creating the law?

Necessary/crucial, or just preferred?

2) Is the statute narrowly tailored to meet gov’t’s objectives?

Does it achieve that goal, or is it overly broad?

3) Are there less restrictive means to adapt the same thing?

There cannot be a less restrictive way to achieve the same goal

Substantially related: challenged law must further an important government interest by means that are substantially related to that interest

Rational Basis Review: the challenged law must be rationally related to a legitimate gov’t interest

generally used when no fundamental rights or suspect classifications are at issue
a rational basis is required for the law, but findings are not mandatory; the law cannot be arbitrary
presumes that act is Constitutional, and burden is on P to show that there is no rational relationship b/w the means and the end

Appellate Jurisdiction: power to review decisions and change outcomes from lower courts

this aspect of jurisdiction may be changed by the legislature

Enumerated Powers: found in Art. I § 8 of the Constitution, and they set forth Congress’s capacities. Congress may exercise the powers granted to it here. Otherwise, the 10th Amendment reserves “the powers not delegated” to the states.


Judicial Review

Landmark: Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Main Point: The appellate jurisdiction of the Court includes the power to hear appeals regarding the constitutionality of acts of other branches of the federal government (Congress and Executive).
Facts: Marbury and several other would be justices of the peace brought suit seeking a writ of mandamus compelling Jefferson’s secretary of state provided that the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus.

SCOTUS has the power, rather than the legislature to interpret federal laws and determine whether it conflicted with the Constitution

as was established in Marbury, even though it is not found in the Constitution’s text
it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is; if two laws conflict, the courts must decide on the operation of each
the legislature cannot close its eyes to the Constitution, for that would eliminate the purpose of the Constitution
a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and the courts, and other departments, are bound by that instrument
the Constitution > legislation à such is the inherent nature of a written Constitution
A. What is reviewable?

Political Acts v. Reviewable Acts

Political Acts: there are certain acts that the executive is elected to make; matters of discretion – which are not for the court to say whether discretion is right
Reviewable Acts: when executive is an officer of the law and individual rights depend on the legal duty of the executive, the individual should have the right to pursue a remedy
Marshall’s Test: consider the 1) nature of the act, and 2) type of claim being made

If someone’s rights are interfered with, then courts may get involved

B. Congress + Original Jurisdiction

Congress cannot give SCOTUS an expanded original jurisdiction b/c that is not what the Framers intended
Limitations to power must be maintained to uphold the Constitution

C. The Supremacy Clause

A law repugnant to the Constitution is VOID because the Constitution > regular legislation

Judicial Review over Federal Questions in the State Courts

as seen in Hunter’s Lessee (Virginia state court refused to honor SCOTUS’s interpretation)
Article III requires SCOTUS, and it may exercise full appellate jurisdiction over lower courts
If state courts hear a federal question, then they are subject to federal review

In other words, this decision is made depending on the type of case, not type of court
Evidence: If Congress did not create lower federal courts, what would SCOTUS review? There would be no point to having it, since there would be nothing to review

A. The Role of the Supremacy Clause

Constitution strips states of certain powers, and state legislations are bound by Constitution
States are limited by the Constitution and thus are not independent sovereigns
I. The Structure of the Constitution (Madison)to deliver the commissions. At the time, the federal Judiciary Act

States gave up certain powers in the Constitution, so federal interpretation does not impede upon state sovereignty
Text: Nothing in the Constitution precludes this judicial review power

B. The Need for Uniformity

Learned men may interpret the Constitution differently. The Constitution cannot mean X in one state and Y in another state
The Constitution was meant to govern all – in other words, be UNIFORM (a core value)
SCOTUS = a reviewing body to harmonize Constitutional interpretation
Constitution won’t mean much if has different meanings in different states

C. Checks on Judicial Review

Nominees have been rejected by the Senate during its vote
Impeachment may occur if the justice commits a high crime or misdemeanor, as per Article II § 4 àbut no justice has been removed
Constitutional amendments may overturn SCOTUS decisions, as may future SCOTUS decisions

Appellate Jurisdiction and SCOTUS

as created by Article III § 2 of the Constitution. “…such exceptions as Congress shall make.”

Exceptions clause thus allows Congress to repeal appellate jurisdiction

Ex Parte McCardle (post Civil War; Congress removed SCOTUS’s habeas corpus appellate jurisdiction)
SCOTUS does not inquire as to what the motive of Congress is in removing its jurisdiction
SCOTUS treats the jurisdiction thereafter as if it had never existed
Broad Rule: as long as Congress acts before the case is decided, they can remove appellate jurisdiction

I. Counter Argument

At some point, jurisdiction must vest

mers intended limits, they would have explicitly included them
Rule: if the end is legitimate and within the scope of Congress, and all appropriate means are plainly adapted to the end and are not prohibited, then it is Constitutional

This standard of judicial review is rational review
C. Policy

Don’t need an explicit power every time the federal gov’t wants to do something
Don’t need an amendment every time either àwould create a massive Constitution
I. Federal Supremacy

State can tax citizens b/c citizens can vote reps. out. The federal government cannot vote them out, so it cannot be taxed by the states.
To promote federal supremacy, an inferior cannot tax a superior

The power to tax = the power to destroy

The Commerce Clause

as seen in Gibbons (state monopoly was given which conflicted w/federal statute: steamships)
Article I, § 8, Clause 3: “Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce…among the several states.”
A. Intent

Framers intended a broad commerce clause so as to: 1) prevent trade wars b/w states 2) create a unified economy

B. What truly is commerce?

It includes intercourse and navigation; cannot just be buying and selling; such a broad definition makes no sense
Commerce among the states cannot stop at the external boundary line of each state, but may be introduced into the interior

C. Regulation of Moral Issues

Champion v. Ames (lotto case and being shipped in the mail through the states)
Rule: Congress can intrude on liberties to further public welfare

Sub Rule: As long as the thing can be said to be regulating commerce among the several states, it doesn’t matter if Congress is really trying to regulate other things/achieve a social goal

The power to regulate includes the power to prohibit àthe power is plenary (a full power)
D. Manufacture and the Stream of Commerce

Hammer – held that manufacturing did not equal ISC – but was later overruled

I. Unconstitutional arguments in any Commerce Clause Analysis

There is no interstate commerce being regulated
If court construes commerce to include XYZ, then too much power is being given to the federal government, which will end freedom of commerce
10th Amendment = a substantial check

The Shift in NLRB v. Jones (steel industry case from 1937)

Although activities may be intrastate in character when separately considered, if they have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that