Structure of Government Judicial Review and Constitutional Interpretation Generalities Rationales for a written Constitution in the US
Serves as governing framework
Assigns powers to the institutions it creates
Precommits us to some things, restrains government
US wasn’t a country before break with Britain; this created a need for some sort of union
Provides clarity: we have text, not just ideas
Moreover, break with Britain, which had no Con, based partly on belief that lack of written document did not protect people
3 Implications of a Writing
Popular Sovereignty: people, not Parliament, are sovereign
Positive over Natural Law: Natural Law too easily trampled by Parliament
Ordinary vs. Higher Law: Higher governs Ordinary; conflict possible
Created role for judiciary in interpreting text to resolve conflicts
Modalities of Constitutional Interpretation Why the need for a theory?
Interpretation often req’d b/c of vagueness
Theory gives interpretation source of authority, esp. in face of countermajoritarian difficulty (Post)
Provides notice and predictability
Judges have no enforcement power, so decisions’ force rest on rationales (Hamilton, Fed 78: The judiciary “may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment”)
Marsh v. Chambers, 1983: gov’t chaplains are ok b/c of unique history of U.S.
Post: Theories of Constitutional Interpretation / Bobbit: Modalities of Constitutional Interpretation Historical/originalism, Textual, Structural, Doctrinal, Ethical, Prudential
Historical interpretation: figure out what the Framers thought about issue
Theoretically verifiable – can look at historical sources
Continuity – won’t change over time – fixed.
Stability – change can only come through constitutional amendment and not judicial interpretation
Way to constrain judges from making personal policy judgments
Relationship to Consent and Democracy
Founders didn’t have unified visions
They didn’t want notes from Constitutional convention – didn’t want people to use their intentions
Allows for judicial discretion in choosing whose intent to follow
Practical verifiability, esp. w/ passage of time
Dead hand control
Textual interpretation: Only a starting point – can never use this alone
Most verifiable – we can all see the text
Limited inquiry – constrains interpretation
Postmodern: Meaning can’t come from text but from individual’s reading of it
Meaning of words evolves
Overly constraining (“land & naval forces” – air force?)
Text is often abstract, vague and general
Structural interpretation: Infer relationships between structures set up in Constitution and make policy judgments.
Main form of interpretation for federalism cases – relationship between national gov’t and states
Form of argument:
Identify constitutional structure
Infer a relationship
Make assertion about whether possible legal move interrupts that relationship
Coherent/Holistic reading of Constitution
Protects crucial relationships not explicitly defined in text
Requires lots of judicial inference
Potential to be inconsistent
Requires policy judgments
Doctrinalism: Apply rules based on precedent
Applicability to diverse situations
Reliance interest protected – provides notice and allows parties to form and rely on expectations
Stability – change is slow
Precedent can be wrongly decided
New case can be incongruous with rule’s origin and purposes
Can become cumbersome and unworkable (multi-prong tests, etc.)
Ethical interpretation: Derives rules from fundamental moral commitments (American ethos) reflected in Constitution.
Key ethical commitment is idea of limited government.
Usually seen in federalism cases or “rights cases” (personal autonomy)
Allows for change – can express Constitution as living body meant to evolve over time
Gives law capacity to express contemporary social moorings
High level of judicial discretion
Countermajoritarian Difficulty: Why should unelected judges get to define the “ethos”?
Prudentialism: Cost-benefit analysis, balance conflicting interests.
Usually invoked in time of war – civil liberties vs. national security. Favorite form of interpretation for O’Connor
Responsive to actual needs of times
Able to balance different constitutional interests
Permits case-by-case adjudication
Sometimes bad to focus on facts – can set negative precedent
Predictability going forward (sui generis)
Much judicial discretion (balancing tests)
Judicial Review Marbury v. Madison (1803): Instituted power of judicial review.
Judiciary Act of 1801: After Jefferson’s election but before Inauguration. Established new set of circuit courts and circuit judges to complement the district and Supreme Court judges (also established Marbury’s position). Both eliminated Court Justices’ need to ride circuit, and entrenched Federalist control over judiciary.
Repeal Act of 1802: Eliminated new circuit courts.
Judiciary Act of 1802: reassigned Court Justices to ride circuit.
Jeffersonians also suspended Court’s 1802 term to prevent litigation over these statutes.
Stuart v. Laird (1803): Upheld constitutionality of the Judiciary Act of 1802 and acquiesced in Jeffersonian purge of Federalist circuit judges
Marshall was Adams’ Secretary of State. Adams appointed Marbury as Justice of the Peace just before leaving office. He signed and sealed commission, but Marshall failed to deliver it. Marbury sought writ of mandamus to compel Madison (new Sec of State under Jefferson) to deliver the commission.
Is there a right to the commission?
Yes. Making of appointment final at signing; delivery isn’t essential. Pres only has authority to appoint, not to remove Justice of the Peace
If there is a right, is there a remedy?
Yes. If an individual has a right, law must afford a remedy. This is the “very essence of civil liberty.”
However, where the issue does not involve an individual right, and involves the exercise of political or legal discretion, decisions are only politically examinable.
Is mandamus the appropriate remedy?
Yes, but this is not important for our purposes.
Does Court have legal jurisdiction to issue the mandamus?
Judiciary Act of 1789 authorizes Court to issue writs of mandamus to, inter alia, persons holding office under US authority. Madison is such a person, therefore Court is statutorily authorized. If not authorized at all, it is because Judiciary Act is unconstitutional.
Constitution grants Court original jurisdiction over limited class of cases, and appellate jurisdiction over all others. This case does not involve one of those limited class of cases.
Congress cannot add to the original jurisdiction of the Court by statute. That would render Constitution’s limited definition of Court’s original jurisdiction surplusage.
Exceptions Clause: The clause “with such Exceptions and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make” attaches to the grant of appellate jurisdiction in all other cases. The logical interpretation here is that Congress may legislate such that the Court does not have appellate jurisdiction over “all other” cases over which it does not also have original jurisdiction. This clause does not allow Congress to make exceptions – i.e., add to – the cases over which the Court has original jurisdiction. (why does CR think there’s an unanswerable issue here?)
Therefore, if Judiciary Act is constitutional, this case must involve only appellate jurisdiction.
But an issuance of a writ of mandamus is appropriate only to original jurisdiction. It creates a cause. Appellate would be upholding or invalidating that cause.
Therefore, the Judiciary Act is unconstitutional with respect to the grant of authority to issue writs of mandamus, and the Court has no jurisdiction to issue the writ.
Can an unconstitutional law be valid?
If Constitution is the supreme law of the land, then no law can be inconsistent with it and be valid.
If not, can the Court declare it void?
It is the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is. This is expressed in the extension of the judicial power to all cases arising under the laws of the United States in Article III.
It would be absurd, for instance, for Court to convict someone under an ex post facto law, given Art. I § 9 Cl. 3. (However, this example is directed to Court action, not Congressional).
Also, judges take oaths to protect Constitution.
Therefore, the Court can, and indeed ought to, say whether a law is or is not valid under the laws of the United States, particularly under the Constitution.
Marbury doesn’t explicitly declare judicial supremacy, but it appears to be implied. What else did Marshall expect Congress to do but to change the statute?
This decision allows Marshall to: (1) justify power of judicial review (articulates power for court that makes it more powerful than before, and (2) avoid political confrontation
Other Justifications for Judicial Review
Supervising Inter- and Intra-governmental Relations:
There needs to be someone who says what goes in (1) the federal system, involving relations between the national and state governments and relations among the states themselves; (2) the internal national system, involving the allocation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches
Preserving Fundamental Values (Bickel)
Fundamental values need to be continually derived, enunciated, and seen in relevant application
Courts have capacities to deal with matters of principle in ways legislatures and executives do not: leisure, training, and insulation to be scholarly in pursuing governmental ends; concerned with facts of case, not abstract or dimly foreseen problems; have opportunity for “sober second thought”
Protecting the Integrity of Democratic Processes (Ely)
Judicial review polices policies that tend to seriously curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily reliable for bringing about repeal of undesirable legislation, or protecting minorities (Carolene Products)
Commerce Clause Commerce Clause I: McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819 History: First Bank
Chartered by Congress and jointly owned by gov’t and shareholders
Purpose: strengthen national gov’t, aid in collection of taxes and administration of public finances, provide loans to gov’t
Madison opposed due to constitutional concerns
Existed from 1790-1811, then expired when Republicans who controlled Congress let it expire; they disliked the idea of a bank and a private banking community
Congress reauthorized bank in 1816 during War of 1812 b/c federal government needed it (Jefferson had supported it; President Madison signs it)
McCulloch v. Maryland Question 1: does Congress have the power to create a national bank?
Facts: Maryland enacts an annual tax of $15K on the Bank. McCulloch, Bank’s cashier, refuses to pay. Maryland sues. Bank’s constitutionality challenged.
Issue: Whether the Bank is consistent with doctrine of enumerated powers
Doctrine of Enumerated Powers
Federal gov’t doesn’t have general powers, but only those enumerated in the Constitution. States, by contrast, have general powers; the only things they couldn’t do were those prohibited in Art. I § 10.
Theoretical Justification: Distrust of central authority, faith in states to protect individual rights
Virginia Plan, purporting to create power of Congress to create laws where states were incompetent, had been rejected
Thus, when we inquire into the constitutionality of a federal law, we ask (1) whether the Constitution grants Congress the power to enact it, and (2) whether the law violates a specific enumerated limitation, such as the Bill of Rights
And when we inquire into the constitutionality of a state law, we ask (1) whether the law violates Art. I § 10, and, after incorporation of 14th, (2) whether the law violates the Bill of Rights
We see an exception to this in Louisiana purchase, justified by necessity to insure republic’s survival, and settled out of court
But power to incorporate/create a Bank not enumerated. So is it constitutional?
Holding: The Bank is constitutional, and hence does not violate enumerated powers
Tradition: Bank had already been debated, passed, then rejected, then passed again in light of difficulties without it. Persistence of practice creates presumption in favor of constitutionality.
Originalist: Framers were among those in First Congress, who chartered the first Bank
Prudential: It was an embarrassment when the first bank was allowed to expire. Additional presumption of constitutionality.
Response to Maryland Objections
That sovereignty resides in the States, since Constitution was ratified by States, creating interpretive presumption in favor of States as against Feds
For ratification to take place, it had to be in the States (“No political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the States”)
Ratification took place in State Conventions, not in State Legislatures; thus sovereignty comes from people (though people in state conventions or people in general?)
That power to incorporate not enumerated
Constitutions by nature do not contain minute detail, otherwise they would be popularly inaccessible legal codes. Minor specifications must be deduced from broad concepts. (“It is a constitution we are expounding”)
Powers given government rationally imply ordinary means of their execution (this is also textualist)
Incorporation is inherently means-oriented; no one incorporates as an end in itself
Originalist – General
Framers knew that AOC’s strictness had been detrimental
Cannot impute to framers intention to deny to federal government ability to exercise effective means for implementation of given ends (among which Marshal specifies taxation, regulation of commerce, war/raising armies and navies)
Textualist – General
Nothing excludes “implied powers,” and, unlike AOC, Constitution omits the word “expressly” (in 10th Amendment)
Necessary & Proper Clause (Art. 1 § 8) (Text. & Orig.)
Necessary here imports no more than that one thing is convenient, useful, or essential to another. Does not import “absolute physical necessity.” This is evidenced by (1) common usage, (2) reasonable inference about beneficent intent of framers, (3) inclusion of “proper,” which implies choice of means, (4) analogies to unchallenged “implied” powers, such as power to punish, (5) inclusion of clause in section with other grants of power to Congress, not limitations on Congress’ power (6) constitutional prohibition on states’ laying imposts unless “absolutely necessary” for their laws’ execution
Marshall accepts the need for a national bank:
Reasonably related to various powers listed above (this point, however, is more subtle, and possibly Marshall didn’t really want to tie Bank to any particular powers)
Long-established use, utility not really questionable
Beginning of rational basis review: If Congress’ end is legitimate, and means are reasonable and not otherwise prohibited, defer to Congress
Two avenues of judicial review going forward
Law prohibited by the Constitution (highly deferential)
Law enacted under “pretext” of accomplishing granted congressional power, with real purpose to attain some non-granted end
Inherent” v. “Implied” powers: Implied: Linked to textually explicit powers as means to their effectuation; Inherent: Do not depend on any textual assignment
1798 Alien and Sedition Act: federalist supporters responded to attacks by saying that the power to control immigration was inherent in the very conception of being a sovereign state in the international system
U.S. v. Curtis-Wright Export Corp: invested the power of external sovereignty to the federal gov’t. doesn’t depend upon affirmative grants from Congress
Excursion into LA: Pres Jefferson (state’s rights, strict construction on national const powers) had doubts about constitutional legitimacy of adding territory to U.S. He thought an amendment was needed to do it. Debate was resolved w/in his administration and w/ Congress.
McCulloch v. Maryland, Question 2: Can Maryland tax the Bank?
Power of taxation is given to both states and federal gov’t simultaneously, exercised (mostly) concurrently
Only place states’ taxation power is expressly limited is Art. 1 § 9 (limiting state’s power to tax imports and exports unless absolutely necessary). Is there any other deducible limitation on states’ power to tax, and if so, is the Bank a beneficiary?
Holding: No, Maryland cannot tax the Bank. The States have no power, by taxation or otherwise, to . . . in any manner control . . . the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress to carry into execution the powers vested in the general government.
Supremacy 1 (Textualist & Structural)
Federal law is supreme (Art. VI Cl. 2), therefore, states cannot “control” the operation of federal laws
The power to create implies the power to preserve; therefore, Congress’ power to create the Bank implies its power to preserve it
The power to tax “involves” the power to destroy, therefore, Maryland’s power to tax the Bank implies its power to destroy it
A right/power to destroy something is incompatible with a right/power to preserve it; therefore, Congress’ power to preserve the Bank is incompatible with Maryland’s power to destroy it, and Congress wins
Reductio ad absurdum (Originalist)
If the States may tax one means employed by the federal government to effectuate its powers, they may tax any such means
The States’ ability to tax any means would defeat all the ends of the federal government
But the American people did not intend for this to be possible
Therefore, the States may not tax any means employed by the federal government
Representation Enforcing (Ethical/Responsive)
People of a state vote for their representatives. Thus, they have consented to their being taxed if the state enacts tax laws.
But when a state taxes the Bank, it indirectly taxes the citizens of other states, who had no say in who governs.
[Problem is, out-of-state people and property transacting with/in the state can get taxed, without ability to vote in that state. The only response here is to distinguish the activities of the Bank as those of the sovereign federal government, which is supreme to the state. But this returns us to the Supremacy clause. And Marshall recognizes as much.]
Responses to Maryland Objections
That taxation power leads to destruction only with abuse, concern over which natural confidence in state’s good faith should foreclose
We cannot have confidence that one state will not take advantage of citizens of other states by taxing the Bank; whereas, we can have confidence in federal government’s ability to tax the states, since tax laws must be uniform across states and since all states are represented in Congress
That the Federalist Papers tell in favor of Maryland’s interpretation of the Constitution
The Federalist, no matter how venerable, must be scrutinized (cf. Bobbitt)
The relevant portion of the Federalist was intended to prove that the federal government’s power to tax would not lead to the destruction of state governments, not that the federal government was subject to state taxation
Court here demonstrates its role of policing intra-governmental activity, prime justification for judicial review. Congress isn’t the one to protect itself by simply forbidding Maryland from taxing the bank.
Assuming that property laws will be non-discriminatory, Marshall says Maryland may still tax property on which Bank located
Courts generally go to substance of the issue, but in constitutional law there is always the background question about legitimacy of judicial review. We see this in McCulloch. This fades over time as judicial review is accepted.
Jackson’s Veto of Second Bank’s Reauthorization: Jackson argued that
Precedent was a dangerous source of authority without a well-settled acquiescence by the states and the people
Each branch ought to be guided by its own interpretation of the Constitution, particularly when Congress and the President engage in lawmaking functions
Supreme Court’s constitutional views do not bind other two branches
Bank not necessary & proper, therefore not constitutional
Signing Statements – the Dellinger Memo
Executive practice and judicial approval support permissibility of selective presidential enforcement based on President’s view of constitutionality
President should construe provisions to avoid constitutional problems
Court has a special role in resolving constitutional disputes
President should execute a statute if he feels Court would find it constitutional, irrespective of his own views
President may, with caution and careful weighing, decline to enforce if he believes law unconstitutional and believes Court would agree
President may decline to enforce law he believes unconstitutional that encroaches on constitutional powers of the Presidency unless he thinks (1) issue justiciable and (2) Court would disagree with him
President should decline to enforce law he thinks unconstitutional if he thinks the issue not justiciable