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Decateur Reed

Doctor of Jurisprudence

Supremacy of Law
Steve and Judy have been dating for the past 8 months and they constantly disagree. Judy always
seems to be right and Steve is sick of it, so he spent hours strategizing in order to finally prove that he is
not the idiot she has proven him to be. Steve stumbled across a subject in which he believed he could
prevail. He chose his time wisely, taking advantage of every edge he could get. He took Judy to her
favorite micro-brewery and made sure that she downed at least 3 dark brews. She began to lose her
inhibitions, which signaled him that the alcohol had taken its affect on her mind. Now was his chance, he
schemed. He brought up the subject of how each state has a Constitution and the Federal government has
a Constitution. Steve told Judy that although he believes that each States Constitution is not individually
superior to the Federal Constitution, collectively the 50 States Constitutions reign supreme over the
Federal Constitution. Afterall, he argued, the United States is a Republic whereby supreme power is held
by a body of States, which collectively vote for representatives at the Federal level. Judy was appalled at
Steves lack of understanding of Constitutional law. She regained her wits quickly and recalled what she
had learned in Dr. Reeds law classes.
The United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 by the 13 newly created
States. The Constitution established the structure of, and allocated power among, the three branches of
the Federal government. The powers named in that document stated precisely what rights and authority
were to be held by the Federal government. All rights and authority not specifically stated as being held
by the Federal government were reserved to the States. This silent recognition of States powers caused
the States to become fearful, so the first Congress approved 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as
the Bill of Rights, which were adopted on December 15, 1791. The Bill of Rights restricted (and still
restricts) the power of the Federal government and established the civil and political rights of the people,
but did not apply to the States until the Supreme Court ruled that the 14 th Amendment incorporated most
of the principal guarantees contained in the first 10 Amendments.
Though the U.S. Constitution grants the Federal government specific powers, it also grants to the
Congress the power to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution
all the powers granted to it in the document. This is known as the necessary and proper clause, which
allows Congress to legislate in areas not specifically stated in the Constitution. The only limitation is that
the legislation reasonably relates to some stated power.
Each State eventually adopted its own Constitution, valid only within its respective borders.
However, the U.S. Constitution states in Article VI that it shall be the supreme Law of the Land. This is
known as the supremacy clause. Thus, if a States Constitution or any other State law conflicts with the
U.S. Constitution, the State law is unconstitutional and will not be given legal effect. What if a State has
a valid constitutional law first, but then Congress enacts a law within its constitutional powers that
conflicts with the State law? It is the same result - the Federal law will preempt the State law. Federal
law is supreme over any and all State law.
Despite Judys inebriated state, she prevailed once again over Steve.

This article is intended as a general review of various legal issues. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for comprehensive
legal advice. The information contained in this article is strictly the opinion of the author.