Constitutional Law - The Constitution, The Bill Of Rights, Due Process Clauses, Equal Protection Clause, Supremacy Clause
The written text of the state and federal constitutions. The body of judicial precedent that has gradually developed through a process in which courts interpret, apply, and explain the meaning of particular constitutional provisions and principles during a legal proceeding. Executive, legislative, and judicial actions that conform with the norms prescribed by a constitutional provision.
The text of the U.S. Constitution is marked by four characteristics: a delegation of power, in which the duties and prerogatives of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are delineated by express constitutional provisions; a SEPARATION OF POWERS, in which the responsibilities of government are divided and shared among the coordinate branches; a reservation of power, in which the sovereignty of the federal government is qualified by the sovereignty reserved to the state governments; and a limitation of power, in which the prerogatives of the three branches of government are restricted by constitutionally enumerated individual rights, UNENUMERATED RIGHTS derived from sources outside the text of the Constitution, and other constraints inherent in a democratic system where the ultimate source of authority for government action is the consent of the people.
In deciding their cases, courts look to these constitutional provisions and principles for guidance. Once a court has interpreted a constitutional provision in a certain fashion, it becomes a precedent. Under the doctrine of STARE DECISIS, the judicial branch is required to adhere to existing precedent in all future cases presenting analogous factual and legal circumstances, unless it has a compelling reason for deviating from the precedent or overruling it.
A state or federal law is said to be constitutional when it is consistent with the text of a constitutional provision and any relevant judicial interpretations. A law that is inconsistent with either the written text or judicial interpretation of a constitutional provision is unconstitutional.
Hall, Kermit L. 2002. Oxford Companion to American Law. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Posner, Richard A. 1999. An Affair of the State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.
- Constitutional Amendment - Brief History Of Constitutional Amendments, Further Readings
- Constitutional Law - The Constitution
- Constitutional Law - The Bill Of Rights
- Constitutional Law - Due Process Clauses
- Constitutional Law - Equal Protection Clause
- Constitutional Law - Supremacy Clause
- Constitutional Law - Other Constitutional Provisions
- Constitutional Law - Cross-references
- Other Free Encyclopedias