The Constitution and Rule of Law Source #1
The United States Constitution was groundbreaking in numerous ways, establishing a new government, the likes of which the world had never seen. Indeed, the very features which made it unique have also contributed to its longevity. These features also define the framework of American government and politics, establishing the United States of America, its national government and outlining the relationships between that government, the people and the states.
The most significant features of the U.S. Constitution are the establishment of the rule of law, the creation of a federal system with a supreme national government, the separation of governmental powers into three branches that check and balance each other, its flexibility and the establishment of a republican form of government.
The Constitution is considered the supreme law of the land both because of its content and because its authority is derived from the people. The concepts and ideas of the Constitution are the "higher law" in the United States of America, things which a government cannot create or destroy. Among these concepts and ideas is the notion that the people are sovereign and that legitimate governments must be based on popular consent. Because the Constitution was ratified by the representatives of the people, it is a document, in both word and deed, created by and for "we the people." While the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, most of the specific, day-to-day rules and regulations that bring order to American society are not included in the Constitution itself.
The Constitution and Rule of Law Source #2
It was eleven years after the Declaration of Independence—and four years after American victory in the Revolutionary War—that a small group of delegates would convene in Philadelphia to create a new charter for governing the new nation. In order to comprehend this historic achievement we must first understand that this moment and the constitutional document that resulted were built on the great foundational principle of the rule of law.
The rule of law may be the most significant and influential accomplishment of Western constitutional thinking. The very meaning and structure of our Constitution embody this principle. Nowhere expressed yet evident throughout the Constitution, this bedrock concept is the first principle on which the American legal and political system was built.
A principle that itself is quite old and long predates the United States, the rule of law is the general concept that government as well as the governed are subject to the law and that all are to be equally protected by the law
The idea of rule of law was transferred to the American colonies through numerous writers and jurists, and can be seen expressed throughout colonial pamphlets and political writings. Thomas Paine reflected this dramatically in Common Sense:
But where says some is the king of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.
Generally speaking, the Constitution applies equally to everyone, regardless of age, color, race, religion, or any other factor. However, minors are a special category of person, and in many cases, the rights of minors can be suppressed in ways that the rights of adults simply may not be.
The most obvious reason for this is simply age. Or perhaps better stated, maturity. A four-year-old, or even a ten-year-old, cannot make, nor be expected to make, the same sorts of decisions that an adult can make. Where an adult might be perfectly free to wander the streets at night, a child seen wandering the streets at night would be taken into some sort of protective custody, even if against his will.
There are other violations of a minor's rights that on their face seem quite onerous, but for which there are many legal precedents. The most common such violations are of the rights of students. That is, of children attending school. The rights of free speech, free press, free association, and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure are points of contention between school administrators and students, and have been for decades.
A tactic undertaken by more and more schools of late is that of searching of student lockers, bags, and of their persons. The most relevant case is New Jersey v TLO (469 US 325 ). Here the Court recognized two things. First, it reaffirmed the role of the school in loco parentis, but it also recognized that school officials are representatives of the State. These two roles can come into conflict, but the Court said that students in public school are not able to assert the same rights as adults in other settings. Rules were established for searches, such as reasonableness, not excessively intrusive, and related to the offense that is being investigated. In the TLO case, a search of a student's purse, the purpose for which was to find cigarettes the student was suspected of smoking on school grounds, was upheld.