What does the Constitution do? 1. Establishes national government & allocates power among the branches 2. Controls relationship between federal & state government (federalism) 3. Limits governmental power and protects individual rights
Why must we interpret the Constitution? 1. Many important topics not addressed in text 2. Many provisions written in broad language that needs interpretation 3. Constitution rarely functions in absolutes
Common modes of interpretation of Constitution (don’t always work in isolation—often work together) 1. Originalism: limit the meaning to what the text meant at the time it was written a. Original intent: what were the intentions of the people who wrote the Constitution? b. Original understanding: look to what the ratifiers understood the text to mean c. Original public meaning 2. Constitutional purpose: broader inquiries into the purposes & themes of Constitution 3. Historical practice: looked to how government has acted in the past 4. Structuralism: look at the overall structure of the Constitution 5. Process-based theory: Courts primary role is to make a fair process of government but to leave substantive judgments to majority rule 6. Rights based theory: beliefs that government exists primarily to protect individuals from intrusion
Two types of challenges: * As applied – claiming that the statute is uncon as applied in this case * Facial – statute must be struck down entirely, no constitutional applications
Judicial Review: federal courts have the ability to review the constitutionality of decisions and actions of other branches of government
Marbury v. Madison: Courts can order executive/legislative officials to perform non-discretionary duties, but not discretionary acts; Courts can review constitutionality of statutes passed. Only original jurisdiction for specific things: Ambassadors, foreign diplomats, cases in which the state is a party.
Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee: federal courts can review state court determinations of federal/constitutional issues, BUT State Courts are the final arbiters of State Law.
Judicial exclusivity in constitutional interpretation
Cooper v. Aaron: the SCOTUS’s interpretation of constitutional provisions is binding on state officials. The SC is the Exclusive authority for the Constitution.
Dickerson v. US: Congress cannot pass statutes to overrule SCOTUS’s interpretations of Constitutional provisions (whether they are explicitly in the Constitution or inferred from)
Political Restraints on Supreme Court:
Impeachment of judges
Jurisdiction stripping (Congress can pass statutes preventing federal courts from hearing cases)
Advisory opinions: SCOTUS has refused to give opinions as to a legal issue before there is a real case
Standing: question of whether a particular person/organization is the proper party to present the issue to the court
2 kinds of standing 1. Constitutional: Congress cannot overrule, inferred from Article III of the Con 2. Prudential: Congress can overrule this with a statute
3 prongs of constitutional standing 1. Injury-in-fact 2. Causation 3. Redressability
Injury-in-fact requirement: injury must be concrete, real and imminent
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife: just saying that would want to go to a country to see animals is not an imminent or real injury—need an actual connection
Sierra Club v. Morton: injury to environment is not sufficient, need to show how the actions injure the individual
Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency: just because a harm is widely shared, this does not prevent an injury; fact that litigant was a state (quasi-sovereign) meant to relax standing requirements; having the increased risk of something is enough for injury
Causation: the allegedly wrongful