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Constitutional Law I
Wayne State University Law School
Sedler, Robert A.

Constitutional Law – Spring 2014
Prof. Sedler
January 9
SCOTUS is supreme per the constitution and its decisions are binding on the lower federal courts.
Assess how the lawyer uses the constitution to defend constitutional challenges and bring about challenges.
Constitution: 7 articles and 27 amendments
·         18th century constitutional w/overlay of 2 party political system
o    Political system has become polarized so there’s no compromise
·         The framers believed in democracy but didn’t trust ordinary people (white male property owners), so compromised that people could vote for electors. Each state got a certain number of electors based on population.  So no popular vote; it’s meaningless.
·         Allocated power to the 3 branches of gov’t
o    Restricts the reserved powers of the state
·         1st constitutional document – Declaration of Independence
o    Colonies declared themselves as free independent states
o    The sovereignty over domestic matter devolved on each 13 states.  As each state was added, they succeeded on the sovereignty
§  Each state has own system of laws and courts
·         Art I – State power;
·         Art II – President power;
o    Grants President independent power to conduct the foreign affairs of the nation, AND
o    To engage in temporary military action to protect American lives and property abroad
·         Art III – Court power
·         Art 1 Sec 10 – preserves power of fed gov’t
·         Every exercise of power by feds must be supported by text of constitution
o    States may exercise power except to the extent that is prohibited by the constitution
·         Imposes limitations on exercise of power by fed gov’t and state gov’t
·         Protects individual rights against gov’t action (great genius of American constitution)
·         States can’t suspend habeas corpus
Ex poste facto law: can’t apply laws retrospectively
Bill of Attainder: a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial.
Bill of Rights imposes sweeping limitations on Congress (Articles 1-9).
·         By its terms only applies to Congress; however SCOTUS has interpreted the 14th amendment due process clause as incorporating the major guarantees of the bill of rights
Modern Constitutions having hundreds of provisions
1/3 of Medicaid is used to support seniors in nursing homes; thus it is very important politically.
·         Much respect for seniors b/c they vote
·         AARP is a major lobby org in DC
·         SCOTUS ruled that ACA couldn’t make states expand Medicaid b/c it violated state sovereignty
The president cannot veto a bill in part; veto all together or go along with it
At this time only Congress can change ACA so it will not fall on its on weight.
·         If it falters, then one step closer to gov’t funded healthcare
January 14
American constitutional system begins with the states that why there are state courts and fed courts
Nature and Scope of Judicial Review
The power of the court to say that a law is unconstitutional
The whole point of the bill of rights: the power of the gov’t must be limited in order to protect individual rights
3 branches of gov’t: Congress makes the laws; President enforces the laws; Courts interpret the laws
Constitutional Function: function of fed courts to define the meaning of the Constitution
No more than 4 amendments designed to override SCOTUS decisions
Federal Questions: any question involving the Constitution, laws and treaties of the US
·         A state court must review a fed question if it arises in state court
Justiciability refers to all barriers of judicial review, including but not limited to:
·         Constitutional Barriers: adverse parties; standing; mootness
o    Congress can’t enact a statute changing constitutional doctrine in these areas
·         Self-Imposed or Prudential Barriers: Ripeness; non-assertion of 3rd party rights; 2nd party of political question doctrine
Marbury v. Madison (1803): judicial review was authorized by the Constitution
·         Judicial review is the constitutional function of the judiciary to interpret and apply the Constitution
·         The Constitution imposes many limitations on the exercise of powers by the gov’t, relating both to the powers granted to the gov’t by the Constitution and the limitations of gov’t power that are designed to protect the individual rights contained in the BOR and other parts of the Constitution
·         Since the Court is performing the judicial function by judicial review, judicial review is not inconsistent w/ separation of powers and the equality of the branches
·         As soon as Pres signs the commission and the Secretary of State affixes the seal, the appointee has a vested legal right in the commission
o    To withhold the commission violates this right
·         SCOTUS has the power, under the Supremacy Clause and Art. VI Sec. 2 of the Constitution to review acts of Congress that are repugnant to the Constitution and find them unconstitutional
In Marbury, the justices claimed no general authority to resolve constitutional issues that might arise in American politics
·         Where it is possible to do so, a case should be decided on non-constitutional grounds
·         Where it is possible to do so, a statute should be interpreted so as to avoid a serious question as to its constitutionality
·         Where a court can’t avoid deciding a constitutional question, it should base its decision on the narrowest possible constitutional grounds
Cooper v. Aaron (1958): arouse years after Brown v. Bd of Ed where AK tried to claim they were bound by SCOTUS ruling in Brown. 
·         Holding: the interpretation of the 14th Amendment by SCOTUS in Brown is the supreme law of the land
o    Every state legislator, executive, and judicial officer is solemnly committed by oath to support the Constitution
Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816): as a matter of constitutional structure, SCOTUS could review a decision of the highest court of a state w/ respect to a federal question
January 16
Limitations on Judicial Power and Review
Dispute resolution or private rights model: the function of the courts is exclusively to resolve the rights of the parties before them in the context of traditionally structured lawsuits involving specifically injured Ps or criminal Ds seeking relief from specific wrongdoers.
Special Functions or Public Rights model: it is the special function of the Court to make sure that other branches of gov’t adhere to constitutional limitations on their power or to enforce the frequently shared rights of the public as a whole
·         There is virtually unanimous agreement that the Court has a special function w/ regard to the Constitution b/c it is the final authoritative interpreter of constitutional text
Advisory Opinion

have used
Injury and the Equal Protection Clause
Heckler v. Mathews: a male who was denied SS benefits could challenge the gender-based classification as violative of equal protection even though the law expressly provided that if the classification was declared invalid, the benefit would be eliminated entirely
·         Injury to P is the discrimination directly traceable to the challenged classification, and if classification is invalidated then he is no longer discriminated against
Sprint Communications Co. V. APCC Services Inc. (2008): the assignee of a legal claim for $ has standing to sue in fed ct, even when the assignee is a collection firm that has promised to remit the proceeds to the assignor
·         Per Art III’s injury requirement, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and damage award would redress the assigned injury
·         DISSENT: an assignee who can retain none of the benefits of a judgment lacks the “personal stake” that Art III standing requires
Simon v. Eastern Ky Welfare Rights Org.: Ps lacked standing to challenge an IRS revenue ruling eliminating a requirement that non-profit hospitals provide some care for indigents in order to qualify for favorable tax tx
·         There was no showing of causation in that P didn’t allege that the hospital reduced services b/c of the ruling
o    Since didn’t argue “b/c of”, it was theoretically possible that the hospital would have reduced the services even in the absence of the IRB ruling, so P failed the causation element
·         P also didn’t allege that the IRS ruling was invalidated, the hospital would restore the reduced services
o    Theoretically possible that the hospital would decide to do w/o the exemption, so P failed the redressibility element of standing
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke: upheld the standing of a white P to challenge a special admissions program for minority applicants to medical school
·         Standing question b/c it wasn’t clear that the existence of an affirmative action program caused Bakke’s rejection
·         Majority wrote that P suffered an injury through his deprivation, on grounds of race, of the chance to compete for every place in the entering class regardless of whether the affirmative action program caused his being ultimately rejected
Los Angeles v. Lyons: alleged that the police dpmt had a policy of applying life-threatening chokeholds unnecessarily, P sued for injunctive relief
·         Standing could not be grounded on the threat of future injury b/c it was too speculative that P would be subjected to a chokehold again
·         Injury could not be redressed by an injunction against future police conduct
·         P had standing to seek damages relief for the past injury