Find a Constitutional Law Lawyer


In constitutional law, federalism is the distribution of power between national and state governments. Through its articles, the United States Constitution designates what powers the national and state governments have.

The judicial branch of the federal government derives its power from Article III 2 of the US Constitution. Article III also gives Congress the power to create inferior federal courts.

The executive branch is given authority in Article II of the US Constitution. Article II provides procedures for executive elections as well as grant powers to the President. The President has the ability to appoint federal officials, as long as they are approved by the Senate. Treaties can also be created by the President with two-thirds consent of the Senate. The President may also be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

In Article I of the US Constitution, specific procedures are described for electing and maintaining a legislative body. Express powers such as regulating foreign commerce, providing for armed services, establishment of post offices, and the authority to collect taxes are also stated in Article I. Congress is also given implied powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I 8. This clause is known in constitutional law to allow Congress to enact laws that are reasonably designed to achieve its delegated powers. Congress also has the exclusive power to regulate commerce and spend money for the general welfare.

Through the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution, the states are granted powers. States have the power to regulate police, public health, morals, and the general welfare of its citizens. In accordance with the Dormant Commerce Clause, the states may regulate commerce as long as it doesn't place an undue burden on interstate commerce.

Individual Rights

As it was originally drafted, the US Constitution had no provisions asserting individual liberties or equal protection of the laws; however, to gain the approval of the states, the first ten amendments (otherwise known as the Bill of Rights) were attached. Initially, the Bill of Rights only limited the federal government. It was not until after the Civil War and the conjunctive passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, that the states were bound to grant the individual liberties described in the Bill of Rights.

In constitutional law, individual liberties are given utmost attention due to the impact they have on the daily lives of Americans. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee due process. This includes incorporated fundamental rights, substantive rights that limit what the federal and state government can do, and procedural limits on how the government acts.

The First Amendment provides freedom of expression to all people. The purpose of the First Amendment is to encourage the marketplace of ideas absent government interference, citizen participation in political discussions, and individual autonomy. Not all speech is protected under the First Amendment: speech that imposes fighting words or obscenity is not awarded constitutional protection. The First Amendment also guarantees the free exercise of religion and separation of church from state.

By Delinda Tamagni           

Related Links: