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Constitutional Law I
Wayne State University Law School
Peters, Christopher J.

I. Levels of Courts
A. Federal (most exclusive to least exclusive)
1) US Supreme Court
a) primary function is to make constitutional policy for the entire country
b) precedents apply everywhere
c) petition for writ of certiorari: directs lower court to send records to Supreme Court
i) discretionary (court does not have to take the case)
ii) rule of 4: only 4 judges necessary to issue cert
iii) if Justices disagree with the cert, they can dismiss writ as improvidently granted
2) Court of Appeals
a) divided into 13 circuits
b) acts as a policy making body
c) primary function is to review substance of law and prior procedures in lawsuits
d) precedents are binding within the circuit the ruling occurs in
3) Federal District Court
a) possesses original jurisdiction (where you file a case)
b) establishes the factual record in a lawsuit
c) opinion is binding in the district it is in
B. State (most exclusive to least exclusive)
1) state supreme court
2) state court of appeals
3) state trial court
C. Ways to get into federal court
1) via diversity: if the parties are from different states in order to have a level playing field
2) via a federal question: an element that would allow for involvement of the federal court
II. Branches of Government
A. Legislative
1) Congressional powers are enumerated in Art. I, §8
a) cl. 1: power to tax and spend for the general welfare
i) Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. (1922): tax is valid if it is a revenue raiser and is a means to achieve a valid regulatory goal of Congress
ii) through spending: imposes conditions on the receipt of money or spends for the general welfare
* US v. Butler (1936): law is invalid if it is mandatory therefore becoming a regulation
* South Dakota v. Dole (1987): spending measure is reviewed under rational basis scrutiny; condition on the receipt of money has to be related to the purpose of th

eir constituents
* if Congress commanders state executive officials, it becomes a separation of powers issue
iii) Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): dealt with navigation commerce; supremacy clause issue (Art. VI, § 2) which can only be used when there is a valid federal and state law and federal law has to be independently justified before you engage in the supremacy analysis

iv) Houston, East & West Texas Ry v. US – SHREVEPORT CASE (1914): dealt with in-states v. interstate rates; states the risk of multiple burdens where states cannot discriminate against interstate commerce without good reason; doctrine that says if the court were to uphold one state’s discriminatory practice, it would be an invitation to other states to pass the same kind of law = AGGREGATION THEORY