The Constitution - a living Document
Read the Preamble - page 95
The Six Basic Principles of the
1) Popular Sovereignty
2) Limited Government
3) Separation of Powers
4) Checks and Balances
5) Judicial Review
Powers Delegated or Expressed for the National Government are
spelled out in the Constitution. Eg found in Article I
"Congress has the power to tax and to regulate trade".
The National Government has power Implied through interpretation of the Constitution. Eg the Elastic Clause
Powers that are not granted to the Federal Government are Reserved for the States. Eg License Fees
that are held by both are called Concurrent Powers. Eg the building of roads, taxes, courts.
Inherent Powers are
retained by the National Government in a world community. Eg A Treaty, acknowledgement of a country.
I - The Legislative Branch
Article II - The Executive Branch
Article III- The Judicial Branch
- The States and the Federal Government
Article V - Method of Amendment
Article VI - General Provisions
Article VII - The Ratification of the Constitution
Amendments - Bill of Rights
Formally Amending the Constitution
Proposal: 2/3 Vote in each
Ratification: 3/4 State legislatures (38 states today) 25 Amendments were adopted this way.
Proposal: by Congress
Ratification: by Conventions in 3/4
of the States. Reason : Public Opinion Eg
The 21st Amendment (repeal Prohibition)
Proposal: by a National Convention called by Congress
at the request of 2/3 state legislatures.
Has never happened but an attempt was made at passing a
Amendment between 1975-89. 32 states asked for a convention to propose the Amendment requiring the Budget Amendment. 34
Proposed at National Convention and Ratified by 3/4 of the states legislatures.
The Constitution was adopted this way.
1-10 Bill 0f Rights
Informally Amending the Constitution
1. Basic Legislation
2. Executive Action
3. Court Decisions
Marbury v Madison (1803)
Article I - The Legislative Branch
1) House of Representatives
-Based on population
-1 representative = 550,000 people
a) 25 years old
b) citizen for 7 years
c) resident of state or district
Term of Office: 2 Years
435 members of the House - fixed number
states lose or gain Representatives by redistricting and through
-A decennial census determines the amount of Representatives for each State.
1990 Census - New York
-33 2000 - 31
1) Legislators - a) make laws
b) introduce laws
c) declare war
d) coin money
2) Committee Members
- serve on committees that propose
bills; - spend money
- ways and means
- Finance and ethics
3) Represent their constituents
carry out the people's will
b) carry out what they believe in
4) Servants of their Constituents
out for those represented
They support the ever changing will of the people. Ignoring them costs
votes. They are aware of this and constantly work to be re-elected
Gerrymandering - the re-drawing
of district lines for the purpose of absorbing or isolating political districts and strengthening the majority party.
Wesberry v Sanders (1964)
1 man, 1 vote.
2) The Senate - Equal representation
from each State (2) Total = 100
Qualifications: a) 30 years old
b) Citizen for 9 years
Senators are elected for 6 year terms
Senatorial elections are held every two years with only 33 or 34 seats up for
election at a time.
Important functions of the Senate
b) Approve appointments and Treaties
( advise and consent)
Congressional Powers Summary
1) power to tax
2) control commerce
4) borrow money
5) declare war
6) foreign relations
7) special judicial powers
I Section 8 - Elastic Clause
Congress has the power to make laws that are "necessary and proper" to execute
Object of many debates between
"strict and broad" interpretations
Clause was established and confirmed by McCulloh v Maryland (1819)
of a National Bank
Article I Section 9
(Protection and Prevention against an all-powerful
Writ of Habeas Corpus
A judge may release anyone who is held without just cause
A Royal practice of pronouncing someone guilty without a trial or eliminating enemies of state
Ex Post Facto Laws
Laws past after crimes were already committed
House of Rep Senate
435 Members 100
2 years Terms 6 years
Younger Age Older
Less Prestige More
Rigid Rules Rules Less
More Committees Less
Strict Floor Rules Less
In the House of Representatives
Debate may last for one hour
- strict regulation.
In the Senate
debate is singular - less committee regulations.
*Filibuster- used in the Senate to talk a Bill to death
A Senate member can hold the floor as long as he does
1)not sit down
2)continues to talk
A Senator, while holding the floor can yield it for
a) a question
b) a point of order
The Senate can restrict a member's attempt at a filibuster through
cloture - 3/5 majority
Article II - The Executive Branch
The American President
35 Years Old
Citizen - Born in the US
14 years a Resident
Term of Office - 4 Years
Framers of the
Constitution were worried about the President becoming a despot.
George Washington shaped the Office of the American
Not only was he our first President, Washington's actions would influence Presidents who followed him.
Every action he took was a precedent
He desired a Cabinet to help him with his vast duties. These offices were
confirmed by Congress.
Secretary of State - Jefferson
Secretary of the Treasury - Hamilton
Secretary of War
- Henry Knox
Attorney General - Edmund Randolf
Postmaster General - Ben Franklin
He did not desire
despotic power or titles but could have had them if he wanted them.
1) Appointment -
He can appoint judges, Cabinet Members, Executive Department posts with the approval of the Senate.
- The White House Offices and the vast Executive Department Offices; Budget, Security
3) Removal - He has the power
to change leadership in Departments
4) Diplomatic - He has the power to make formal treaties with heads of state
with the advise and consent of the Senate. He can also make informal agreements.
5) Commander and Chief - He is
the civilian head of all armed United States forces.
6) Legislative Powers - sponsor bills that he wants passed
in Congress. He is the head of his political party.
7) Judicial Power - he can pardon, give amnesty and they are
The President is a civilian and is Commander-in-Chief of the military
has the power to sign bills into law. He may also veto a bill.
He represents the American People and enforces the
laws of the nation.
The Federal Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court
To uphold the Constitution and to interpret laws. The Supreme Court has complete
power and jurisdiction over Constitutional matters.
This duty of Judicial Review was established through the
Marbury v Madison (1803)
The Supreme Court's power was established when Chief Justice John
Marshall declared the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional.
John Marshall's opinion was not challenged, therefore it
set a precedent.
There are 9 Justices on the High Court. They are appointed by the President with approval of the
They are appointed for life
Supreme Court Judges write for the
Majority; Concurring Opinions;
Fletcher v Peck (1819) - The Court established its power
to review state laws
Dartmouth College v Woodward (1819)
States may not pass laws that impair private contracts
McCulloch v Maryland (1819)
Upheld the power of the Federal Government and confirmed the elastic clause
Gibbons v Ogden (1824) - established the broad interpretation of Congressional power over interstate Commerce.
4 - 5000 cases are brought to the Court each year and only about 150 cases are reviewed
A writ of mandamus
from the Supreme Court requires a public official to perform certain duties
Ex Parte Milligan
A question of habeus
1 - 10 Bill of Rights
13,14,15 Civil War Amendments
1st Amendment - Freedom of Speech,
religion, press, assembly and petition.
Almighty God , we acknowledge our dependence upon thee,
and we beg thy blessings upon us , our parents our teachers and our country
Engle v Vitale (1962)
Hugo Black's decision writing for an 8 - 1 majority,
The establishment clause - "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of a religion..."
"Religion has no place or purpose in the United States".
"It is not the business of government to compose official prayers....."
The free exercise clause
of the First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Government's interference in the free exercise of one's religious
Wisconsin v Yoder (1972) The Court ruled that requiring the Amish to attend Public Schools was too excessive.
8 Grade limit.
Schenck v United States (1919)
The Espionage Act of 1917 prohibited anti- American
activities during wartime. Schenck mailed prospective draftees a circular claiming that the Draft was unconstitutional and
urged resistance to it.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the decision saying that freedom of Speech is every
ones right, but it does not give you the right to yell fire in a crowded movie theater. Freedom of Speech is not absolute!
*Obscenity - Mailing and selling Adult Books etc...
Miller v California (1973)
Court defines obscenity
1) tends to excite lust
2)sexually offensive contact
3)lacks any artistic value
Barnes v Glen Theater (1991)
*Indiana's G -String Law
banning nude dancing
2nd Amendment - The
right to bear arms
3rd Amendment - Restricts the Government's right to Quarter
4th Amendment - The right
to be secure in your person and prohibiting unreasonable search and seizures.
Provides protection against
assistance(blanket search warrants) however
United States v Santana(1976)
upholds law enforcement's right of
hot pursuit and to enter without a search warrant. Police officers have to prove they had Probable Cause.
The right to silence and protection from self-incrimination
Protects against ignorance of law and allows
the accused to be silent.
Miranda v Arizona (1966)
Ernesto Miranda the, accused did not understand his rights. (he
was mentally challenged)
This prompted the Miranda Rule
1. You have the right to remain silent
you say may be used against you in court
3. You have a right to consul and a right to have him present during questioning
4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one can be provided
5. Do you understand ?
6. You can waive consul and stop
questioning at any time.
6th Amendment - the right to consul in criminal cases and a public, speedy trial...
accused must be given a fair and speedy trial.
Gideon v Wainright (1963) The state must provide a lawyer for those
who cannot afford one.
7th Amendment - Trial by Jury in civil cases.
8th Amendment - Excess bail shall not
be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.
The Amendment protects against cruel
punishment. Wilkerson v Utah (1879)
a territorial court sentenced a convicted murderer to the firing squad. He appealed
to the Supreme Court who held that punishment was not in violation of the Constitution. The Constitution was fashioned to
protect us against cruel punishments such as crucifixions, burning at the stake.
On bail and preventive detention
United States v Salerno (1987) the court ruled that preventing bail to an accused person who is capable of committing
other crimes while released was Constitutional.
9th Amendment - Un-enumerated Rights.
The Amendments were
not the only rights of the people. Sometimes rights are not spelled out.
10th Amendment - Powers reserved to the
States. Powers not given to the Federal Government in the Constitution, remaining with the states or with the people.
14th Amendment - Equal protection under the law; Due Process Clause
Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment
and its equal protection guarantees the Bill of Rights.
Roe v Wade (1973)
Test of 9th and 14th Amendments
Texas law prohibited legal abortions except to save a mother's life. Supreme Court found this unconstitutional. Its
ruling is divided into 3 parts.
1)During the first tri-mester of pregnancy a state must recognize a women's
right to choose and cannot interfere with any medical decision.
2) A state in the second trimester may regulate
but not prohibit the procedure.
3) State may regulate except when saving the life of a mother.
Since 1973, parts
2 and 3 have been struck down with no more federal funds for abortions, clinical advice,
2nd tri-mester and under
age abortions with parental consent.
Racial Segregation - Jim Crow Laws
Plessy v Ferguson (1896)
Brown v Board of Ed.(1954)
Act of 1964
-Voting Rights Act of 1965
Affirmative Action - ending the effects of past discrimination
by favoring minorities-- Quotas
Backlash - Un. of Cal v Bakke (1978)
Bakke sued on the grounds of reverse discrimination
Supreme Court ruled 5- 4 that quota systems violated The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Supreme Court ruled again that
affirmative action plans are legal and not in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as long as no rigid quotas are involved
US Steel v Weber(1979)
Quota System in private enterprise
Weber sued for reverse discrimination of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964
Supreme Court ruled 5 - 2
Quotas are legal in private business as long as the Federal Govt is not