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The Constitution. “Supreme law of the land.”. Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. One vote for each state regardless of size or population. Congress was powerless to collect taxes or duties. Congress was powerless to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.

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The constitution

The Constitution

“Supreme law of the land.”

Weaknesses of the articles of confederation
Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation

  • One vote for each state regardless of size or population.

  • Congress was powerless to collect taxes or duties.

  • Congress was powerless to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.

  • There was no executive to enforce the acts of congress.

  • There was no national court system.

  • Amendments could only pass with the consent of ALL the states.

  • A 9/13 majority required to pass laws.

  • Articles were only a “firm league of friendship”.

Six basic principles
Six Basic Principles

  • Popular Sovereignty

  • Limited Government

  • Separation of Powers

  • Checks and Balances

  • Judicial Review

  • Federalism

Popular sovereignty
Popular Sovereignty

  • The people are the only source of government power.

  • -Government can ONLY govern with the consent of the people.

  • -Sovereign people created the Constitution and the U.S. gov.

Limited government
Limited Government

  • Gov. may do ONLY those things the people have given it power

    to do.

  • The government and its officers are ALWAYS subject to the law. This principle is called constitutionalism.

  • Much of it reads as explicit prohibitions to gov.’s power,

    ex. “Congress shall make no law…”

  • Popular Sovereignty= The people are the only source of any government authority.

  • Limited Government= Government has only the authority the people have given it.

Separation of powers
Separation of Powers

  • The powers of the National Government are distributed among

  • Congress (legislative branch), the President (executive branch), and the courts (judicial branch).

  • Congress= Law making body

  • President= Law enforcing body

  • Courts= Law interpretation and application body

  • The framers created a separation of power to limit the powers of the gov. and prevent tyranny, too much power by one person or a small group of people.

Checks and balances
Checks and Balances

  • Each branch is subject to a number of constitutional restraints by the other branches.

  • Although there have been instances of large clashes between branches, usually the branches restrain themselves as they attempt to achieve their own goals. i.e. presidential veto, congressional override of a veto, etc.

  • More likely to clash when the party holding the majority in congress is different from the party the President represents.

Judicial review
Judicial Review

  • Power to declare unconstitutional—illegal, null and void, no force and effect—a governmental action found to violate some provision in the Constitution.

  • Power held by all federal courts and most state courts.

  • Through the landmark case Marbury v. Madison (1803), the judicial branch possesses the power to determine the constitutionality of an action of the government.

  • In most cases the judiciary has supported the constitutionality of government acts; but in more than 130 cases, the courts have found congressional to be unconstitutional, and they have voided thousands of acts of state and local governments


  • Federalism is the division of political power among the central government and several regional government (distributed on a territorial basis).

  • U.S. federalism originated in American rebellion against the edicts of a distant government in England.

Format of the constitution
Format of the Constitution

  • Preamble

  • Articles I, II, and III lay out the three branches of government and their system to check one another

  • Bill of Rights expressed specific limitations on the government over the citizens

Bill of rights
Bill of Rights

  • First Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

  • All Ratified on 12/15/1791

Amendment i

Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990)

Tinker v. Des Moines

Texas v. Johnson

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment I

Amendment ii

Right to Bear Arms

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

Girouard v. U.S. (1946)

U.S. v. Miller (1939)

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment II

Amendment iii

Quartering of Soldiers

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quarteredmin any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment III

Amendment iv

Search and Seizure

Map v. Ohio

Katz v. U.S.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IV

Amendment v

Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings

Mirand v. Arizona (1966)

Sheppard v. Maxwell (1966)

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any personbe subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment V

Amendment vi

Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses

U.S. v. Gonzales-Lopez (2006)

Klopfer v. North Carolina (1967)

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VI

Amendment vii

Trial by Jury in Civil Cases

Walker v. Sauvinet (1876)

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VII

Amendment viii

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Furman v. GA (1972)

Roper v. Simmons (2005)

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment VIII

Amendment ix

Construction of Constitution

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment IX

Amendment x

Powers of the States and People

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Amendment X

Amendment xiv

Citizenship Rights

Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940) / West Virginia State Board of Ed v. Barnette (1943)

Plessy v. Freguson (1896)

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Amendment XIV

How a judge rules
How a Judge Rules

  • Judges use their reasoning skills to decide what particular laws mean when they rule on cases. Different judges sometimes use different reasoning skills to interpret the Constitution, meaning that judges do not always agree on the meaning of the Constitution. There are six widely accepted methods of interpretation that shed some light on the meaning of the Constitution.

Interpreting the law
Interpreting the Law

  • Historical Interpretation A judge looks to the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution to shed light on its meaning.

  • Textual Interpretation A judge looks to the meaning of the words in the Constitution, relying on common understandings of what the words mean today.

  • Structural InterpretationA judge infers structural rules (power relationships between institutions, for instance) from the relationships specifically outlined in the Constitution.

  • Doctrinal InterpretationA judge applies rules established by precedents.

  • Ethical InterpretationA judge looks to the moral commitments reflected in the Constitution.

  • Prudential InterpretationA judge seeks to balance the costs and benefits of a particular ruling.