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Key Points in Constitutional Law

Key Points in Constitutional Law

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Published by Yin Huang / 黄寅

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Published by: Yin Huang / 黄寅 on May 09, 2010
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06/17/2013

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 Yin Huang 1
Key Points in Constitutional Law Contents
 The Commerce Clause......................................................................................................................................1
 
During the Lochner Era...............................................................................................................................2
 
During the New Deal Era............................................................................................................................2
 
In Advancing Civil Rights............................................................................................................................2
 
Modern Limits on the Commerce Power..................................................................................................2
 
 The Spending Clause..........................................................................................................................................2
 
Equal Protection.................................................................................................................................................3
 
Proving Discrimination.................................................................................................................................3
 
Desegregation.................................................................................................................................................3
 
 Affirmative Action.........................................................................................................................................3
 
Substantive Due Process...................................................................................................................................4
 
During the Lochner Era...............................................................................................................................4
 
In Modern Times...........................................................................................................................................4
 
Fundamental Rights...........................................................................................................................................4
 
Contraception.................................................................................................................................................4
 
 Abortion..........................................................................................................................................................4
 
Romantic Relationships................................................................................................................................5
 
Modern Federalism............................................................................................................................................5
 
 War Powers.........................................................................................................................................................6
 
 The Three Levels of Review.............................................................................................................................6
 
Rational Basis..................................................................................................................................................6
 
Intermediate Scrutiny....................................................................................................................................6
 
Strict Scrutiny.................................................................................................................................................6
 
 The Commerce Clause
 The Court initially took an expansive view of congressional power under the Commerce Clause. In
Gibbons v. Ogden 
, the Court held that “[c]ommerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more—it is intercourse. It describes the commercial intercourse between nations, and parts of nations . . . .” The Court further stated in
Gibbons 
that the commerce power “is complete in itself,may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed inthe constitution.” States were implicitly forbidden from passing legislation concerning subjects thatmight fall within the scope of the Commerce Clause. The Court has never required Congress to invoke specifically the Commerce Clause as a justificationfor legislation. As long as the Court can find that a law in question has some effect on interstatecommerce, that law passes muster under the Commerce Clause. Currently, laws challenged underthe Commerce Clause are evaluated using the test in
United States v. Lopez 
. The
Lopez 
test states thata law stays within the bounds of the Commerce Clause when it regulates (1) channels of interstatecommerce, (2) articles or instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or (3) activities that “substantially affect” interstate commerce. The third criterion includes such cases as
Wickard v. Filburn 
and
Raich v.Gonzales 
. In both those cases, the Court found that purely intrastate activity could affect interstatecommerce by influencing supply and demand on an interstate scale.
 
 Yin Huang 2
During the Lochner Era
 Although the Court’s use of economic substantive due process during the Lochner era largely obviated invocations of the Commerce Clause, the Court limited the scope of the Clause by drawing a distinction between the “production” or “manufacture” of goods and the “transport” of thosegoods. In
Hammer v. Dagenhart 
, the Court held that Congress could not use the commerce power torestrict interstate trade in the products of child labor because child labor related solely to the“production” as opposed to “commerce.” In
Carter v. Carter Coal Co.
, the Court held that mining  was not susceptible to federal regulation because it was a solely intrastate activity of “production”even though the coal itself was subsequently transported across state lines. In
Schecter Poultry Corp. v.United States 
, the Court held that chickens shipped across state lines ceased to be articles of interstatecommerce upon arriving at their destination.
During the New Deal Era
 The New Deal era saw a renewed expansion of the commerce power. In
 Nebbia v. New York
, theCourt upheld federal price regulations in the milk industry. In
 NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.
,the Court upheld the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) after finding that labor disputes in thesteel industry had the potential to disrupt commerce throughout the nation. In
United States v. Darby 
,the Court upheld a federal minimum-wage law. In
Darby 
, the Court abandoned the distinctionbetween “production” and “transport” by stating that lumber produced entirely within one state wasnonetheless “tied” to interstate commerce. The developments of the New Deal era culminated in
Wickard v. Filburn 
, in which the Court held that homegrown wheat could nonetheless have an effecton supply and demand in interstate wheat markets.
In Advancing Civil Rights
 The Commerce Clause is the major justification for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In
Heart of Atlanta  Motel v. United States 
, the Court held the lack of accommodations for black travelers had reachedsuch epidemic proportions as to adversely affect interstate commerce. In
Katzenbach v. McClung 
, theCourt held that racial discrimination in restaurants affected interstate commerce because itinfluenced the interstate market for food.
Modern Limits on the Commerce Power
 The Court has recognized new limits to the commerce power in recent years. In
United States v.Lopez 
, the Court invalidated the Gun-Free School Zones Act because Congress had failed toestablish any meaningful relationship between the possession of guns on school property andinterstate commerce. The Court criticized Congress for attempting to draw a connection betweenthe possibility of violence in schools and a potential reduction in national productivity. The Courtfound that such reasoning would effectively leave nothing outside the reach of the CommerceClause. The Court reaffirmed the
Lopez 
holding in
United States v. Morrison 
. In
 Morrison 
, the Courtfound that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) did not fall within the scope of theCommerce Clause because violence against women was neither “commercial” nor “interstate” incharacter.
 The Spending Clause
Congress may generally use its spending power to induce the state to comply with federalrecommendations as long as it stays within the bounds of the
Dole 
test. In
United States v. Dole 
, theCourt held that any exercise of the spending power must (1) relate to the general welfare, (2) set
 
 Yin Huang 3forth unambiguously the conditions for receiving federal funds, (3) relate to federal interests inparticular national projects or programs, and (4) comport with any independent constitutionalrestrictions. The Court added that any funds conditionally granted under the Spending Clause couldnot be so substantial as to function as coercion. This rule echoes the decision in the
Child Labor Tax 
 case, in which the Court held that Congress could not levy a special tax against manufacturers thatused child labor.
Equal Protection
Proving Discrimination
Under the Constitution, a law imposes discrimination when it (1) facially discriminates betweenindividuals or (2) evidences discriminatory effect coupled with discriminatory intent. The Courtestablished the requirement of discriminatory intent in
Washington v. Davis 
. In
Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney 
, the Court elaborated its holding in
Washington 
by stating that discriminatory intent exists only if the legislature adopted a particular law “because of,” rather than “in spite of,” itsdiscriminatory impact. The Court subsequently stated in
Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp.
that discriminatory effect may give rise to an inference of discriminatory intent under particular circumstances and established a six-factor for determining whether such aninference should be permitted.Legislation may reduce the burden of proof necessary for a finding of discrimination. For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that discriminatory effect alone is sufficient toestablish discrimination.
Desegregation
Following 
Brown 
and related decisions, the Court authorized the federal judiciary to oversee thenationwide desegregation of schools in
Brown II 
. In
Cooper v. Aaron 
, the Court showed that it was willing to use military force to enforce desegregation. In
Green v. New Kent County School Board 
, theCourt held that school districts had the burden of proving good-faith efforts to desegregate. In
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education 
, the Court authorized the use of equitable remedies,including busing, and stated a four-factor test for determining the adequacy of desegregation efforts.In
Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, Colorado
, the Court addressed the problem of 
de facto
 segregation. The Court held in
Keyes 
that a finding of segregation in a substantial number of schools within a district supported an inference of segregation throughout that district. In
 Milliken v. Bradley 
,the Court imposed a limit on remedies to segregation by holding that inter-district remedies wereinappropriate absent a showing of inter-district segregation. The effect of 
 Milliken 
was to make itdifficult to desegregate inner-city schools because such schools were almost uniformly black.
 Affirmative Action
 Affirmative action has been a bone of contention in modern constitutional doctrine. The justices of the Court seem to have divided into two camps: (1) those who unconditionally oppose the use of racial classifications and (2) those who believe that race-conscious remedies are an appropriate way to remedy the lingering effects of past discrimination.In the educational context, the Court has consistently opposed the use of quotas to achieve racialbalancing. This view originated in
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 
. In
Bakke 
, Justice

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