California Bar Exam Tip: If Constitutional Law Is Tested . . .

Hello All,

I have received many emails asking for a link to my earlier Constitutional Law posts. I have copied and pasted the relevant portions below:

I have attached as a download, a past Constitutional Law Essay that I think is worth reviewing.

The reason I think it makes good sense to review this exam the day before is because of this simple fact – a very similar essay exam may appear on day three of the California Bar Exam. Therefore, it just makes sense to read through the essay. You can download it here: ConLaw Handout 2 F-05

This past essay exam is from the February 2005 bar exam. I think it is worth a read. DO NOT test yourself on this. Instead, simply read through it (stay calm while you do so) and read and study the answer. Spend about 20 – 30 minutes on it (a few more minutes if you think you will benefit from it). The key here is to be able to glean some insights into both the approach for Constitutional Law (the approach that is embraced by the California Bar Examiners) and also how to handle an essay that is similar to this Constitutional Law exam. I think it is quite likely that you would see something like this tested. It is certainly possible. Given that possibility – it can not hurt you to read through it. And, remember, it is really important that you simply “read through it” – DO NOT TEST yourself on this – simply read through it and do your best to connect the dots between the fact pattern and what was generated in the answers. Focus on this: “If I were to get this particular essay exam on the actual bar exam, how would I write my answer?”

Hopefully, you would stick to the issues that are addressed in both answers and even better, if you do see something similar to this particular essay exam, you will remember how to handle it tomorrow.

And here is my earlier post regarding Constitutional Law and one of the approaches that would be helpful if you were faced with evaluating the Constitutionality of a state statute:

Constitutional Law: Constitutional Law was not tested on the last bar round. Now, that on its own is not enough to simply put it on the table so to speak. However, I do think it is a real possibility. But, this whole exam is not usually made up of all six essays from the MBE topics. So, something has to (in my opinion) come into the mix other than the MBE subjects being tested on the essays. Still Constitutional Law I think is a real possibility. First Amendment was tested last time (in February 2012). Now that does not mean that the First Amendment will not be tested again this time. However, I do have some thoughts on what I think might be a bit more likely. Just also keep in mind, the First Amendment is a favorite and is tested heavily – so do not presume it will not be on the test.

Possible Constitutional Law Essay Scenario: Evaluating the Constitutionality of a state or federal statute. Now this is a broad area as it could involve Equal Protection, Fundamental Rights (Privacy is a typical hot topic) and Due Process and either the Commerce Clause or Dormant Commerce Clause. And, of course whenever you are facing a Constitutional Law exam, you will typically begin your answer (but, pay attention to the call of the question) with an “Article III, Case or Controversy Requirements” discussion and State Action (both must be present to make a Constitutional claim). So, you might be thinking, she just predicted the possibility of virtually everything within Constitutional Law. Not really. If you have to evaluate the Constitutionality of a state statute – you will handle certain things in a certain order (unless directed otherwise by the call or calls of the question). For example, if you have to determine the Constitutionality of a state statute you will likely go about it in this order:

1) State Action (prove this up quickly – it is a preliminary issue generally – unless the facts really pose it as an issue – for example, a company town or a private entity performing some service or business that is generally conducted by the government – if you have facts like that, then develop this area, if not, then prove it up and move on)

2) Article III Case or Controversy Requirements (Standing – actual injury or personal stake in the outcome, causation, and redress ability (also, could be tested on third party standing or associational standing or the exception to the general rule that there is not “taxpayer standing” – but only bring these up if the facts generate it), the issue must be ripe, not moot, and must not involve a political question)

3) Is there an issue with respect to 11th Amendment Immunity?  This is generally a very quick discussion – but worth points to bring up IF you are dealing with a state statute (but, don’t dismiss the whole Constitutional Claim because of the 11th Amendment – it is just an area to bring up, address quickly and move on).

4) Does the state have the power to act? There will generally be a basis here and you should identify the state’s power as stemming from the 10th Amendment (certain powers are reserved to the states via the 10 Amendment – health, welfare, safety, education and morals)

5) Are there any pre-emption issues? Be careful here – there does not necessarily have to be a federal law provided to you on the fact pattern in order for preemption to be an issue (Supremacy Clause issue). Watch out for situations where the state is regulating the radio or television – if so – the FCC regulates this area and you then need to address the possibility that the state regulation is preempted by federal law.

6) Does the state law place an undue burden on interstate commerce? (this may or may not be an issue – it is simply a question you should ask yourself so that you are able to generate the issue, spot it, if it is present). If the state law discriminates between out-of-staters and in-staters (for example, a tax on all trucks coming in from out of state to deliver milk in plastic milk containers or a tax on all large trucks of a certain size and many of these trucks travel across the US) then you likely have an issue to discuss here.

7) Does the state law violate the Constitution? Here you should ask yourself whether or not there is an Equal Protection violation (it may be obvious and it may not be – hence, the reason to ask yourself). Also ask whether there is a Due Process violation (address both Procedural Due Process and Substantive Due Process and note that your discussion of Procedural Due Process on an essay exam is usually limited to notice and an opportunity to be heard . . . usually) and of course look to see whether there is a First Amendment violation (infringement on speech, the freedom of association or Religion – both free exercise and establishment clause. Also note: if you were tested on religion, you should discuss both Free Exercise and Establishment Clause – these come up together)

Possible Community Property Scenario:  Community Property was tested last time – but as a cross-over with Professional Responsibility. You may not want to hear this, but Van Camp and Pereira have not been tested in a while (these are the tests – or “accounting methods” for value enhanced separate property businesses). If this concept makes your eyes roll into the back of your head – take a deep breath and calm down. Remember that these tests are to determine what portion of a separate property business should be considered community property. It is not too much more complicated than that (for bar exam purposes). Review these tests (take five or ten minutes – even do it tomorrow morning if that is what you prefer – just in case), know which favors community property and which favors separate property – try your best to keep these tests straight – don’t worry – you can rely on short term memory for this. Also, remember that you should generally talk about both if either seems to be tested. It may be that the fact pattern (assuming you get a Community Property fact pattern that tests this area) where Van Camp seems to be the more applicable test. That is fine, write about it and still explain Pereira and quickly explain what the result would be if the court were to apply Pereira – remember, you are trying to show the grader your breadth of knowledge).

Best of luck to you all!
Lisa Duncanson
Program Director/Founder
Bar None Review