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Last Modified: December 28, 2022

Constitutional Law

Cornell Law University defines Constitutional Law as, “A subjective test with which a court weighs competing interests, e.g. between an inmate’s liberty interest and the government’s interest in public safety, to decide which interest prevails.” Constitutional law consists of those statutes prescribed by the legal code established for a given jurisdiction.  For instance, Article I, Section 3 of Utah’s constitution stipulates that the Utah code is subject to the federal Constitution.  In Utah, as in all the United States, the federal Constitution is “the supreme law of the land;” and Utah’s constitution, in turn, is the absolute law in Utah within the scope of federal law, as laid down by Article I, Section 26:  “[T]he provisions of this Constitution are mandatory and prohibitory unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.”

Example Sentence

Freedom of Speech is protected by Constitutional Law, allowing citizens to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction.

Case Study

Michael Hansen was charged with protesting gay marriage in front of the courthouse. He was lighting fires and causing a public safety concern. He was charged, under constitutional law, for disorderly conduct.

Other Important Information

Constitutional law is perhaps better defined by what it is not:  the written law of the land does not necessarily occupy the same territory as the common law that comprises the legal precedents set in England and in earlier American rulings, and which are a part of the U.S. legal tradition insofar as they do not clash with the written law.  While this may seem to limit constitutional law to a space encompassed within the bounds of common law interpretation of the written word, this is not so.  In fact, special forms of relief for those not protected by those laws that serve the people generally are enjoined by the constitution so that justice may be served in exceptional circumstances. As stated in 68-3-2(4), “When there is a conflict between the rules of equity and the rules of common law in reference to the same matter, the rules of equity prevail.” The law is written to protect the citizenry, and provisions for fairness are mandated even when this leads to unorthodox proceedings. Indeed, it is this idea of equity for all that underlies the rulings that make up common law.  All situations are different, and all deserve individual examination.  This is why lawyers are so vital to the workings of justice—the laws are more complex than the constitution and must be read in light of previous legal decisions and the principles of fairness.  Common law is still used to guide rulings, particularly in cases that defy common logic.  Outstanding circumstances—whether outstanding bad luck or simply an extraordinarily confusing situation—call for tailored remedies that do not always follow tradition.

Image “Constitution_Pg1of4_AC” copyright by aaron_anderer.