Law School Discussion

wtf con law

wtf con law
« on: January 10, 2008, 06:17:09 PM »
OK, this is my first week back, and I am completely confused by con law. I have to browse the Web for summaries of every single case we read because I have no idea what they're saying. I got the Chemerinksy treatise (although it's an older edition), but won't be able to really look at it until the weekend because I've been so slammed with reading so far.

Anyone else have this experience at the beginning of the semester, yet still come out OK in the end? So frustrating!


  • ****
  • 125
    • View Profile
Re: wtf con law
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2008, 06:52:31 PM »
I don't know. My Con Law class just read Marbury v. Madison and I didn't find it that hard to understand. Are you reading a lot of cases from the 19th century? Some of the language in them is pretty archaic. Luckily my professor is grouping our cases together according to subject--so I have Copper v. Allen (1950's) next under the subject of "Judicial Supremacy". My recommendation is to use the computer (i.e. Wikipedia can be helpful sometimes) as a means of obtaining background information about a given case. This can put it in context for you and assist in better understanding. Other than that, just keep re-reading.


  • ****
  • 129
    • View Profile
Re: wtf con law
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2008, 07:34:18 PM »
No worries.  Keep plugging along.  Nothing in law school makes perfect sense until the end.  It all pieces together bit by bit and is like looking at one puzzle piece at a time.  Without the entire puzzle you aren't going to see the big picture and for better or worse (I vote for worse) the law is the same way.

Just keep reading, paying attention, and discussing the issues.  It will eventually make sense.  Marbury is the mother of all con law, but I imagine you will spend the majority of your time on commerce clause issues and those are.... well.... more fun than a barrel of monkeys  ;).

Re: wtf con law
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2008, 07:51:12 PM »
Thank you, that's reassuring. I just have no experience with the Constitution (I know, sad --> crappy high school and subsequent non-related major!).


  • ****
  • 344
    • View Profile
Re: wtf con law
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2008, 10:03:22 PM »
Con Law is unique because you really need to understand the cases. In other core classes they are often examples of BLL, here cases are the key.  Often the dissent is as important as the majority opinion, especially in more recent cases where a change in a single Justice could change the court's holding. 

To understand the cases, I would first try to simplify things.  Wikipedia is GREAT for Con Law (as another poster mentioned).  I bought the High Court Summaries keyed to my text book and found that to be really helpful as well.  Chemerinsky is a bit dense, and I think reading it now will only confuse you more.


Re: wtf con law
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2008, 12:18:50 AM »
Yes, everyone has a lot of trouble. Just keep in mind justices are prone to jargon. When reading a case keep these three core ideas in mind.
(1) Con. law is about the REASONING & not the holding, cuz reason makes the test or doctrine for lower courts & the country. & the reasoning of the dissents.

(2) Con. Law arguments fall into 6 categories: I use mnemonic device "DEPTHS." 
          D = doctrine see above, create a legal principle from a bunch of cases
             e.g. abortion is legal cuz of Roe v. Wade's rule.
          E = Ethical arg. Individual rights, power not delegated to gov't. (bill of rights)
               e.g. Did we ever give our gov't the power to execute some people?
          P = Prudence arg. Economic costs, political cost (e.g. votes) & inter-
              branch competence, in short, policy consideration/preferences.
              e.g. Will allowing people to bear arms be efficient for Nat'l security?
          T = Textual arg., Art I-VI, common understanding of text, rigid formalism.
              Always ask, is what the fed. gov't doing written in the const'n or neccessary & 
              proper to carry out its enumerated powers?
              e.g. Can congress tax only one Communist comic-book store in L.A.?
          H - Historical arg. e.g. originalism (framer's intent) or legislative history.
              e.g. Do all judges have to wear white-wigs?
          S = Structural arg., Federlaism (the power of the State agst fed. gov't) & 
              separation of power (inter/intra-branch efficincy.)
              e.g. can congress tell the president what to do?
Each argument used to justify Judicial review & each type is value netural. 

(3) Con. Law theory: The Supreme Court always answers why in the hell it should grant review on a case & get involved, if there is original jurisidction its no problem, but if not they need to justify it. So while (1) is concened with "what" is law, & (2) is concerned "why" it is law, (3) is about why "should" unelected judges make this law.
                         * * *
Finally, a topic breakdown of Con. law is simple, just remember that our gov't is limited by a written Const'n, so for our Fed. gov't to do anything they need to use Art I-III, in short, the heart of con. law is the flow of those Articles. (Art I = Congress, Art II = Prez. & Art III = Judiciary). The states have GENERAL power unlike fed. gov't as long as they don't violate 9 (a decent metaphor is that the States are like the ocean the fed. gov't is like land--the ocean has dominion where there is no land--Tsunami's destroy land).  Also, read anything the federalist Marshall writes at least thrice cuz he usu. sets the tone. (e.g. Gibbons sets tone for commerce, McCulloch sets tone for judicial review & implied fed. power, Marbury sets limits on S.Ct. power over the Prez., Johnson sets tone for property, OsBorne for fed. jurisidction etc. etc.)--hope tis helps,--M.

p.s. one more thing that confused the hell outta me, federalist = lover of Fed. gov't (.e.g Marshall) Federalism = lover of the states' oceanic autonomy.

Re: wtf con law
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2008, 11:28:34 AM »
Consider getting a brief book keyed to your textbook. Don't stop reading the text, but use the brief book to supplement your reading.

Re: wtf con law
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2008, 02:39:29 PM »
I love Con Law

This is where having a BA in Philosophy is REALLY helpful in law school

Now, Contracts... thats another story...

Re: wtf con law
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2008, 04:56:02 PM »
I don't know whether this really answers your question but I (at least so far) haven't been finding Con Law that bad because my BA was in Political Science and History, both of which I focused on the founders for. One of the classes I took though really helped out even though it was after the founding, Constitutional History since the Civil War, and the book is helping me quite a bit. Its a casebook but I really like the writing style and would recommend looking into it if you need some extra help (your library probably has it so you won't have to buy it)- Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (edited by Akhil Amar, P. Brest, S. Levinson, and J.M. Balkin)--- hope that helps

as far as founding era, look into the federalist papers and Madison's notes on the convention or for an overview, anything Forrest McDonald is usually pretty good

Re: wtf con law
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2008, 04:53:24 PM »
Has anyone used the E&E for con law? Is it any good?

I am having a hard time especially since my professor just talks about his love of the justices and not so much the cases that we read.