4: Constitutional Law and US Commerce
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After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:
- Know what judicial review is and what it represents in terms of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
- Describe the different phases of congressional power over commerce, as adjudged by the US Supreme Court over time.
- Describe how the Supreme Court, under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, balances state and federal laws that may be wholly or partly in conflict.
- Explain how the Bill of Rights relates to business activities in the United States.
The US Constitution is the foundation for all of US law. Business and commerce are directly affected by the words, meanings, and interpretations of the Constitution. Because it speaks in general terms, its provisions raise all kinds of issues for scholars, lawyers, judges, politicians, and commentators. For example, arguments still rage over the nature and meaning of “federalism,” the concept that there is shared governance between the states and the federal government. The US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of those disputes, and as such it has a unique role in the legal system. It has assumed the power of judicial review, unique among federal systems globally, through which it can strike down federal or state statutes that it believes violate the Constitution and can even void the president’s executive orders if they are contrary to the Constitution’s language. No knowledgeable citizen or businessperson can afford to be ignorant of its basic provisions.