1. Marbury v. Madison



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Constitutional Law Briefs Printed: 5/31/16

1. Marbury v. Madison, (1803); pg. 2, briefed 9/8/95
2. Facts: Marbury was one of the famous “midnight judges” whose commission had been signed by the Secretary of State (Marshall), but had not been delivered before the morning that Jefferson took office.
3. Procedural Posture: Marbury went directly to the Supreme Court to compel Jefferson’s Secretary of State (Madison) to deliver their commissions.
4. Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has the power to review the legislative acts of the Congress to determine their constitutionality.
5. Holding: Yes.
6. Majority Reasoning: Marshall stated that Marbury had a right to his commission once it was signed. Further, Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the supreme court the right to issue a writ of mandamus against persons holding office. Thus, it would appear that Marbury has a remedy. However, Article III Section 2 of the Constitution states that the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction in cases “affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party,” and “in all other cases,...shall have appellate jurisdiction.” Since a writ of mandamus is an original action, Section 13 of the Judiciary Act must be contrary to the constitution, because it allows the Supreme Court to hear cases of original jurisdiction for persons besides ministers, consuls and ambassadors, etc. If the constitution is the supreme will of the people to limit government, then the legislature can not alter it at will. Thus, the legislature can not be allowed to pass laws repugnant to the constitution. Since it is the Supreme Court’s role to interpret laws and resolve conflicts between competing laws, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, then the Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution and decide if a law passed conflicts with it.
1. Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, (1816); pg. 29, briefed, 9/8/95
2. Facts: Fairfax, a British loyalist, owned land in Virginia. A Virginia state law provided for the seizure of Fairfax’s lands prior to 1783. Virginia granted the land to Hunter. Martin was the inheritor of the land from Fairfax. Martin claimed that the Peace Treaty of 1783 and the Jay Treaty of 1794 protected the land from seizure.
3. Procedural Posture: The Virginia court, in the original case, found for Hunter The Supreme Court reversed, ordering the Virginia court to enter judgment for Martin under the authority granted by Section 25 of the Judiciary Act which gave the Supreme Court the power to review final decisions of the highest state courts rejecting claims based on federal law. The Virginia state court refused to comply with the order, claiming that Section 25 was unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court had no constitutional right to review the final decisions of the state courts. The case is again being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
4. Issue: Whether Section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is constitutionally valid, giving the Supreme Court the right to review the final decisions of state courts rejecting claims based on federal law.
5. Holding: Yes.
6. ∏ Argument: Without Supreme Court review of state court decisions, there will be no other mode by which Congress can extend the judicial power of the United States to cases of federal cognizance which arise in the state courts, resulting in non-uniformity of decisions among states.
7. ∆ Argument: The constitution does not provide explicitly for Supreme Court review of state court decisions. Since it must have been foreseen by the drafters that conflicts would arise, the omission is evidence that the framers felt that such a powerful tribunal would produce evils greater than those of the occasional collisions which it would be designed to remedy. Thus, once an action is brought in state court, the federal court’s sole remedy is to shift it to a lower federal court before it gets to the final court of the state, or simply to advise the high state court that they have improperly interpreted the constitution. The states are dually sovereign with the federal government, and not subject to the laws of Congress which limit their sovereignty.
8. Majority Reasoning: In Article III, the Supreme Court is given the judicial power which “shall extend to all cases.” Thus, it is the nature of the case and not the court of origin that determines whether the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court appellate power is not limited only to cases that come up through the lower federal courts. Also, the Constitution was designed to operate upon the states themselves, and not just the persons within the states. Thus, the states themselves are not equal sovereigns with the federal government, but rather subject to its law-making capability. Furthermore, even if the state courts do not abuse the power of the constitution, they are likely to rule differently on it from state to state. Thus, the need for uniformity in decisions requires an ultimate single court of last resort which exercises review over all states. Lastly, there is substantial historical evidence that the framers intended Supreme Court review of state court decisions, as well as several previous cases which do so.
1. Ex Parte McCardle, (1869); pg. 39, briefed 9/8/95
2. Facts: McCardle was a newspaper publisher in the post-civil war south. He was imprisoned for sedition.
3. Procedural Posture: McCardle brought a habeus corpus act under an Act of Congress of 1867 which authorized the federal courts to grant habeus corpus to anyone restrained “in violation of the Constitution”, and gave the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over such actions. However, before it was ruled upon on the merits by the Supreme Court, Congress passed another Act, expressly revoking the appellate jurisdiction for these types of actions that it had previously granted in 1867.
4. Issue: Whether Congress can take away the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as to habeus corpus acts, which jurisdiction was granted in the 1867 Act.
5. Holding: Yes.
6. ∏ Argument: The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is derived from Article III, Section 2 of the constitution, not from acts of Congress.
7. Majority Reasoning: It is true that the appellate jurisdiction is granted by the constitution, but in the same article, it is made expressly subject to “such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make.” Thus, Congress has the power to expand and limit the scope of the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Quite simply, Congress was acting clearly within its power in both granting and then repealing the specific jurisdiction to review habeus corpus cases from the Circuit Courts pursuant to the Act of 1867. The Act of 1868 does not affect the appellate jurisdiction with regard to any other cases.
1. United States v. Klein, (1872); pg. 42, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: Klein was pardoned by the president for aiding in the civil war rebellion. A statute existed that would allow persons who did not aid in the rebellion to recover land seized from them in the Reconstruction. Previous case law had held that a presidential pardon was conclusive proof that a person had not committed the crime.
3. Procedural Posture: A new statute was enacted by Congress while the Klein case was pending appeal, reversing the previous tradition of a pardon being proof of non-participation, and in fact making it conclusive proof of actual participation. In addition, the statute purported to remove federal court jurisdiction for all such claims arising from pardons.
4. Issue: Whether Congress has the constitutional power to enact a statute which limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, when, by limiting said jurisdiction would dictate the outcome of a particular case.
5. Holding: No.
6. ∏ Argument: Congress has the power under Article III to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the federal courts because of the specific language “with such exceptions...as the Congress shall make.”
7. ∆ Argument: Congress does not have the power to dictate the outcome of any particular case because such would be contrary to the separation of powers structure of the Constitution.
8. Majority Reasoning: The statute removing jurisdiction in this instance was unconstitutional because it was only “a means to an end,” to affect the outcome of this particular case. Dismissing the appeal would allow Congress to prescribe the judgments of the Supreme Court directly. The statute prescribed how the court should decide an issue of fact, and it denied effect to a Presidential Pardon, thus violating the separation of powers.
1. Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc. (1995); pg. 3 supp., briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: A Securities Act violation was committed. After Supreme Court dismissal of the first action for being brought outside of the statute of limitations, Congress passed a new section 27A to the Securities Exchange Act, extending the statute of limitations in these cases, as well as providing for the “reinstatement” of causes of action that had been dismissed on statute of limitations grounds during the time of pendency of the first action in this case, thus re-opening the case.
3. Procedural Posture: In the first action, the Supreme Court dismissed the case for being brought outside of the statute of limitations (which it has prescribed in the Rules). Congress’ enactment of new section 27A reinstated the action.
4. Issue: Whether Congress can reinstate a case that has been previously dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.
5. Holding: No.
6. ∏ Argument: Congress has the power under Article III to modify the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which includes statutorily reinstating a class of cases.
7. ∆ Argument: Congress’ power does not include reinstatement of previously decided cases under new laws.
8. Majority Reasoning: Scalia stated that Article III not only gives the federal judiciary the power to rule on cases, but to decide them, subject only to review by superior courts in the Article III hierarchy. “When retroactive legislation requires its own application in a case already finally adjudicated, it does no more and no less than ‘reverse a determination once made, in a particular case.’” Such power is clearly contrary to what the framers contemplated in the separation of powers. It did not matter that the statute was with reference to a general class of cases, and not ostensibly to a particular case, if it gave the Congress the power to reinstate a case, it necessarily interfered with the outcome of a particular case.
1. Michigan v. Long (1983); pg. 56, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: Long was arrested, and alleged that his search and seizure rights had been violated.
3. Procedural Posture: The Michigan State Supreme Court ruled that the police search did violated the Fourth Amendment and the Michigan Constitution’s own search and seizure laws.
4. Issue: Whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review state court judgments which concern federal issues, and which are not clearly based on an adequate and independent state law grounds.
5. Holding: Yes. If the state court decision does not] indicate clearly and expressly by means of a “plain statement” that it is alternatively based on bona fide separate, adequate, and independent grounds the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction to review the state court ruling.
6. Majority Reasoning: O’Connor stated that the Court must assume that there are no adequate grounds when it is not clear from the opinion that there were, and the opinion appears to rest primarily on federal law. It was necessary out of respect for the independence of state courts that the presumption of adequate state grounds go against the states so as to promote clarity, thus avoiding excessive remands and advisory opinions. This promotes uniformity in the states interpretation of federal law.
7. Dissent Reasoning: Stevens stated that it would be better to give the presumption for adequate state grounds to the state, because of historical concerns of judicial restraint. The Supreme Court should not be involved unless there is a reason to vindicate the federal rights of a party. A presumption against independent state grounds would have the Court expounding their understanding of Constitutional law to the legal community instead of primarily sitting to resolve disputes.
1. McCulloch v. Maryland, (1819); pg. 67, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: In 1816, Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States, which became active in Maryland. In 1818, the Maryland legislature passed an Act to tax any bank not chartered by the Legislature of Maryland, thus taxing the U.S. Bank. The law provided for private remedies against the bank operators, of which, one was McCulloch.
3. Procedural Posture: The trial court entered judgment on the basis of an agreed statement of facts (that the U.S. Bank was not chartered by the Maryland legislature), and the Maryland Court of Appeal affirmed. An appeal was taken by writ of error to the Supreme Court.
4. Issue: 1) Whether Congress has the power to incorporate a bank; and 2) Whether the state of Maryland may, without violating the constitution, tax the U.S. Bank.
5. Holding: 1) Yes. 2) No.
6. ∏ Argument: Although Congress does not have the enumerated power to incorporate a bank, such power is implied by the “necessary and proper” language of Article I Section 8.
7. ∆ Argument: Congress not only does not have the enumerated power to incorporate a bank, but furthermore only has the powers that the states, as independent sovereigns, give to it. This is evidenced by the “necessary and proper” language which should be construed to be a limit on Congressional power, implying only strict necessity.
8. Majority Reasoning: Marshall first noted that the Congressional power established by the Constitution originates from the people, not the states. Article II should be read in light of the previous Articles of Confederation, which were unworkable because of their strict limitations on express Congressional power. The Constitution, by nature, must be general in order to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Thus, there must be some implied powers to allow Congress to exercise the broad range of express powers given as means to ends. The language “necessary and proper” should be construed to mean “convenient, or useful, or essential” not as things that are absolutely necessary, otherwise the word “proper” would be superfluous, and there would be no need to include the word “absolutely” in the enumeration of powers to the states. The “necessary and proper” language is included among the power of Congress, not the limitations, and so should be read as enlarging the scope of Congress’ powers. All means which are appropriate and plainly adapted to the exercise of enumerated powers are constitutional, not just those that are strictly necessary. As to whether Maryland could tax the federal bank, the power to tax something is the power to destroy it. Since the states are necessarily inferior to the federal government, the states do not have the power to “destroy” (by taxing) the federal government. The people did not design to make their federal government dependent on the states.

1. Gibbons v. Ogden, (1824); pg. 94, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: Gibbons was a former partner turned competitor of Ogden. Ogden had a monopoly to operate steamboats on the New York Harbor from New York City to New Jersey, and Gibbons was competing with him. Ogdens’ monopoly was granted by the New York state legislature. Gibbon’s ferries were licensed as “vessels to be employed in the coasting trade” under a federal law of 1793.
3. Procedural Posture: The trial court granted an injunction against Gibbons to stop operating his ferry. Gibbons brought an appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the statute granting a monopoly to Ogden was unconstitutional as being repugnant to the commerce power granted to Congress.
4. Issue: Whether Congress has the power to regulate the navigation of steamboats on the New York harbor between New York and New Jersey, to the exclusion of the state of New York.
5. Holding: Yes.
6. ∏ Argument: The New York law is unconstitutional because it usurps Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, which includes navigation.
7. ∆ Argument: Congress does not have the power to regulate non-commerce events such as “navigation.” Also, Congress does not have the power to regulate commerce that occurs internal to a state, only that that occurs between two states.
8. Majority Reasoning: Marshall stated that the common understanding of the word “commerce” necessarily included “navigation.” Thus, Congress has the right to regulate navigation as if it were expressly mentioned in the Constitution. Congress has the power to regulate commerce “among the several states.” “Among” means intermingled with, not just between. Thus, the commerce power extends internal to the states because commerce transactions, which can affect the states generally, can originate and terminate within the state border boundaries. Although it does not extend to transactions which are completely internal to a state, the commerce power would be useless if it could not extend beyond the state boundaries because that is where the transactions occur. Lastly, the commerce power is limited only by the constitution. The Congress has the full and exclusive power to make rules by which interstate commerce is to be governed. This power is centralized in one body, but it can act wherever needed in the states.
1. United States v. E.C. Knight & Co., (1895); pg. 100, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: Knight acquired the stock of several other sugar manufacturing companies, to control about 98% of the nation’s sugar refining capacity.
3. Procedural Posture: The government brought a civil action under the Sherman Act, which provided for penalties for “restraint of trade or commerce among the several states,” to set aside the acquisition. The lower court dismissed the action, and the government appealed to the Supreme Court.
4. Issue: Whether Congress had the power, under the commerce clause, to regulate the monopolization of the means of manufacturing a good.
5. Holding: No.
6. ∏ Argument: A monopoly of manufacture restrains the free trade or commerce among the states, and thus is contrary to the Sherman Act. Congress has the power to regulate the monopolization of manufacture because it restrains free trade among the states.
7. ∆ Argument: A monopolization of manufacture is not possible. Even if it were, such power to control it would necessarily extend to all use of raw materials, and thus is beyond what the Sherman Act contemplates.
8. Majority Reasoning: If monopolization of manufacture could exist, it could only have an indirect effect on interstate commerce. There is a difference between “manufacture” and “commerce”, namely that commerce succeeds manufacture. Thus, controlling manufacture only indirectly controls commerce. Congress does not have the power to control manufacture because that would be too intrusive a power, necessarily applying to all production of raw materials that could be manufactured into a higher product and then subject to commercial interstate transactions. Allowing the power to be construed this broadly would leave no powers for the states to exercise pursuant to the tenth amendment. All local commerce would then be subject to federal control. Thus, the distinction must be made between activities that have a “direct” affect on commerce, which Congress can control, and those which have merely and “indirect” or incidental affect on commerce, which the states are left to control.

1. Houston E. & W. Texas Ry. Co. v. United States (The Shreveport Rate Case), (1914); pg. 103, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: The railroad had rail lines both within Texas, and between Texas and Louisiana. As an incentive to promote Texas suppliers to sell to Texas manufacturers, the railroad maintained lower rates for traffic within the state of Texas, while charging disproportionately high rates for traffic to Louisiana.
3. Procedural Posture: The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) set rates for the transportation of goods from Texas to Louisiana, and ordered the railroad to end its discriminatory practice of maintaining lower rates for traffic within the state. The railroad challenged that order, appealing to the Supreme Court.
4. Issue: Whether Congress, through the ICC, has the power to set the intra-state railroad cargo rates of a carrier that has both intra-state and inter-state lines, if such intra-state rates represent an unjust discrimination against inter-state commerce.
5. Holding: Yes. “Whenever the interstate and intrastate transactions of carriers are so related that the government of one involves the control of the other, it is Congress, and not the State, that is entitled to prescribe the final and dominant rule, for otherwise Congress would be denied the exercise of its constitutional authority.”
6. ∏ Argument: Congress has not power to regulate the intra-state rates.
7. ∆ Argument: Congress has the power to regulate intra-state rates if they affect interstate commerce.
8. Majority Reasoning: Congressional authority extends to interstate carriers as instruments of interstate commerce. This necessarily includes the right to control all of their operations that have a “close and substantial” affect on interstate commerce. The fact that the carrier has intra-state business as well does not diminish Congress’ power to regulate the interstate portion by preventing injury to it. Otherwise, the commerce power would have no bite among carriers with both lines. Furthermore, Congress had the power to affect the intrastate lines in other areas, such as safety because it also had an interstate commerce component. Thus, Congress has the power to foster and protect interstate commerce, and to take all measures necessary and appropriate to that end, although intrastate transactions may be thereby controlled.
9. Notes: The “current of commerce” notion has also been invoked as a practical consideration to allow Congress to regulate portions of interstate commerce that appear to be solely intrastate. In Stafford v. Wallace, the Supreme Court held that individual purchases by middlemen of meat destined for the cities was a part of the “current of commerce.” The purchase by the middlemen was local to the state that they were in, but they were simply a part of a greater flow of meat from the West to the East. The many transactions, viewed as a whole, represented interstate commerce on a major scale. If the middlemen were unregulated, their actions could become an obstacle to free trade.

1. Wickard v. Filburn, (1942); pg. 128, briefed 9/10/95
2. Facts: Filburn was a farmer who grew wheat both for sale and for his own use. Under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, Filburn was fined for producing too much wheat for his own consumption.
3. Procedural Posture: Filburn sought enjoinder of the fine, and sued the Secretary of Agriculture, Wickard. The lower court granted the injunction on other grounds, and Wickard appealed.
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