Select Page

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

I. Background:
A. Role of Const.
1. Allocates powers to branches of govt.
2.Separates powers and defines responsibility
3. Limits Power: Limits the power to the states. (States don’t really rely on const as source of their power). And protects individuals thru the bill of rights.
B. Role of Judiciary: Precedent is BINDING- Stare Decisis
1. Const doctrine develops in a line or growth
2. Ct rarely overrules its own precedent
3. Makes Value judgments
TRENDS:
-Expanding Congress power under Commerce Clause
-Expanding personal liberties under DPC
-Supremacy Clause – Const is supreme law of land. Ct has power to bind state cts thru const or federal doctrine

Judicial Review:
Article III merely creates the S.CT and extends the jurisdiction to “all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution the laws of the US and Treaties made under their authority” but Section II spells out those cases in which the S.CT has original jurisdiction
-Cases arising under the Constitution, the Laws of the US, Treaties, involving Ambassadors, public ministers, all Cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction

MARBURY V. MADISON: 1803
– MArbury sued seeking writ of mandamus (ct order) to get his commission as a judge. The Judiciary act of 1789 granted power to Supreme Court under original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus (which is how the case went straight to the s.ct ). But under the const, S.Ct only had original jurisdiction with ambassadors, public ministers, and councils. Power was not enumerated in Article III. Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Judiciary Act that granted power to issue Writs of Mandamus was Unconstitutional and therefore invalid.
ii. It is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is. Judicial Function argument. NOT JUDICIAL SUPREMACY
iii.   If a law is in opposition to the Constitution, the Court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case. This is the very essence of judicial duty. 
iv.   The Judicial power of the US extends to all cases arising under the Constitution. Since acts of Congress are passed according to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has power to review them.                                            
v.    A law repugnant to the Constitution is void. The Supreme Court has the power         to interpret the meaning of the Constitution, as well as to review the Constitutionality of Congressional Acts.   
vi.   Principles of Constitutional Adjudication from Marbury v. Madison
i.      Statutes should be interpreted narrowly to avoid Constitutional Questions
ii.     Court should not decide Const ? if case can be decide on non-constl grounds
iii.   Court should decide minor issues before major ones
iv.    Supreme Court has power of judicial review
vii.   Most const ? can be decided either way, including Marbury v. Madison (ct. could have said that Constitution didn’t explicitly authorize judicial review, therefore Ct. couldn’t decide the case)

Martin v Hunter’s Lease (1816) Page 21
Facts: Lord Fairfax, a Virginia citizen, willed his Virginia land to his nephew, Martin, a British subject resident in England. In 1789, Virginia, acting pursuant to state laws confiscating lands owned by British subjects, granted the land in ? to Hunter. The latter brought an action of ejectment against Martin. The district court ruled for Martin, whose claim

n. The most important thing Court does is nothing. 
3) Finality – Judicial decision is effectively final since it can be overturned only by Constitutional amendment, which is nearly impossible to pass. Therefore the decision of 9 unelected people is final on large important issues.

d.     Enforceability of Judicial Decisions – Cooper v. Aaron [15] (order to enforce Brown)
i.     Supreme Court cannot enforce its own decisions
ii.    It is the duty of the President to enforce the laws of the Land (including SC                    decisions). Therefore, the President is bound by Supreme Court Decisions to enforce them by use of the National Guard etc. where necessary.
iii. Congress has the duty to impeach a President who fails to comply with a Supreme Court decision or to enforce the laws of the nation.
iv.   Pres. has some power to interpret Constitution for himself via use of his veto power.

e.     Interpretivism v. Non-Interpretivism in Judicial Decision Making
i.     Interpretivism/Originalism
– Court should look only at text of Const and historical context in which it was written
ii.    Non-Interpretivism
– Court should go beyond text and context to enforce norms not found solely in                    the four corners of the Constitution.
-Judiciary should make normative and moral decisions.
-Interp of Const much change with the times. Cant determine meaning based on Framer’s values.