balladeer of moons

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                   An Introduction to Constitutional Law
 
 
 
 
The Constitution was not made for one generation, but for all generations. It was intended
 
for posterity and has not failed as of yet. It is the world’s oldest written constitution, older
 
than even India’s. It should be read again and again, like the Bible in
 
order to be fully understood. Generally, constitutional law deals with the interpretation
 
and putting into effect of the national document known as the Constitution. As it is the
 
case that the United States is founded upon the constitution, constitutional law deals with
 
some of the most basic relationships within our society.
 
This includes relationships among the states, the states and the federal government, the
 
three branches of the federal government, and the rights and civil liberties of individuals.
 
The Constitution is not a static document. It is always evolving to stay current with
 
contemporary problems. As such, it is constantly being reviewed and scrutinized by the
 
highest branch of the judiciary, the Supreme Court. New rulings seen in different lights
 
and from different perspectives keep the Constitution viable and dynamically relevant to
 
today’s demands. While the area of constitutional law also covers the interpretation of
 
state constitutions, the term “constitutional law” is usually understood as referring to the
 
U.S. Constitution.  The United States Constitution is the basis for all forms of
 
constitutional law. All legal subjects that deal with an individual’s constitutional
 
rights, as well as the infringements of these rights, are embraced within constitutional
 
law.
 
 
 
The Constitution reveals our past and gives indicators of future trends. It can be baffling
 
but is still a reflection of our values as a country.
 
The Constitution establishes the three branches of the federal government and outlines
 
their powers. Article I establishes the House of Representatives and the Senate. Section 8
 
enumerates the powers of Congress. Congress has specifically used its power to regulate
 
commerce (the commerce clause) with foreign nations and among the states to enact
 
broad and powerful legislation throughout the nation (www.law.cornell.edu). The
 
sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to collect a national income tax without
 
apportioning it among the states (Ibid.).
 
When the Supreme Court evaluates a case dealing with constitutional law, the acting
 
justice will write opinions or deliver judgments based on his interpretation of the United
 
States Constitution. Not every state or region possesses a constitution; however, areas
 
with an affirmed legal code possess some sort of framework to shed light upon the law of
 
the land. (Ibid.). In its essence, a constitution not only delivers the individual citizen’s
 
basic rights
 
and liberties, but balances the power of governmental relationships through a system of
 
checks and balances (Ibid.). The United States Constitution, for example, balances the
 
powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive bodies under the broad
 
heading of the federal government.

The field of constitutional law is flexible; constitutional law has been amended through
 
various Supreme Court decisions. In its original form, the United States constitution
 
possessed seven articles. These articles are still listed; however, since the ratification of the
 
United States Constitution, 27 additional amendments have been added. When the United
 
States Constitution is amended, the interpretive laws within the framework are effectively
 
restructured to better fit contemporary times. That being said, the ability to amend the
 
constitution is difficult; since the initial construction of the United States Constitution,
 
over 10,000 amendments have been proposed and subsequently shot down (Congressional
 
Quarterly.com, Thomas  J. Walker, “Constitutional Law for a Changing America:
 
Institutional Powers and Constraints,” 2001).
 
 
The animating spirit of the Constitution is to bring about and secure justice and liberty.
 
This is its informing intention. Should the specific intent of the framers dictate all future
 
interpretations? Schools of thought differ but originalists or purists hold to a stricter
 
construction in their interpretation as to such issues as “equal protection” or the “right to
 
bear arms,” for instance. Non-originalists hold closer to Natural law, precedent, and the
 
presiding issues of the moment. Good conscience and faithful interpretation will
 
remain the guiding principles in all judicial review of a most lasting and relevant document
 
(www.law2.umkc.edu). 
 
 
The Judiciary should feel free to offer its interpretations in the making of constitutional
 
law independent of political influences. As Hamilton stated, “the judiciary acts as an
 
excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body and is
 
peculiarly essential to the safeguarding of liberty.” In this way the Constitution can as
 
nearly approach immortality as is possible for a humanly-made institution.
 
 
 
Sources
 
www.law.cornell.edu
 
www.law2.umkc.edu
 
Congressional Quarterly.com