Key SCOTUS Cases – Article I

by Professor Byron L. Warnken on September 21, 2010

Art. I. (Legislative Branch), § 8 (Enumerated Powers), Cl. 18 (Necessary & Proper Clause)McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819).

Congress created a national bank.  Md. taxed bank notes not chartered in Md., which harmed the national bank as the only out-of-state bank.  When the national bank refused to pay the tax, Md. filed suit.  Supreme Court held that the implied powers under the “Necessary and Proper” Clause authorize Congress to enact laws not expressly enumerated in the Constitution, as long as they further an enumerated power in the Constitution, such as the power to regulate interstate commerce.  Congress had the power to establish the national bank, and it was unconstitutional for Md. to impede this federal power by taxing the bank.

Art. I. (Legislative Branch), § 9, Cl. 2 (Privilege of Writ of Habeas Corpus)Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008).

Supreme Court held that enemy combatants have privilege of habeas corpus, which may only be suspended in rebellion or invasion.  Court found unconstitutional (1) Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, with its Combatant Status Review Tribunals, because they were constitutionally inadequate substitutes for habeas corpus; and (2) Military Commissions Act of 2006, which suspends habeas corpus for enemy combatants.  Court stated that, although Guantanamo is under sovereignty of Cuba, it is under United States control, and Constitution applies.  Court rejected Government’s argument that providing habeas relief to enemy combatants would compromise military’s mission and interfere with security efforts.

Art. I. (Legislative Branch), § 9, Cl. 2 & § 10, Cl. 1 (Ex Post Facto)Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 (1798).

Supreme Court held that state probate law was not ex post facto law.  Prohibition against ex post facto laws applies solely to criminal laws.  Ex post facto laws (1) punish as criminal acts not criminal when committed; (2) make offense more onerous than when committed; (3) inflict greater penalty for offense than when committed; and (4) permit conviction for offense on lesser evidence than required when committed.

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