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Constitutional Law Research

This guide offers research and strategy related to U.S. Constitutional Law

Books

Treatises

The Nature of The Constitution

The Constitution is a pervasive document, cited as the supreme law of the land. All statutory and subordinate law conflicts with constitutional language and principles are resolved by the courts in favor of the Constitution. The document covers the organization of political structures, the judiciary, and sets out the respective responsibilities and limits for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

The Constitution also spells out the rights of citizens against the power of government. These rights are heavily litigated to the extent that specific bodies of research for those individual rights exist in great detail. The following table indicates some of these areas.

Freedom of Speech

1st Amendment

Freedom of Religion

1st Amendment

Rights related to Weapons

2nd Amendment

Searches and Seizure Law

4th Amendment

Right against Self-Incrimination

5th Amendment

Government Taking of Property

5th Amendment

Rights to a Speedy Trial, Jury, and Counsel

6th Amendment

Rights to a Civil Trial

7th Amendment

Right to Bail, Capital Punishment

8th Amendment

Unenumerated Rights, Privacy

9th Amendment

Powers reserved to States

10th Amendment

Suits against States, Sovereign Immunity

11th Amendment

Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, Equal Protection

14th Amendment

There are generally extensive treatises devoted to each of these subject areas. These materials would be a better starting point for research devoted to one of these subjects rather than starting with general constitutional research. More often than not, these specialty treatises will have extensive commentary on specific constitutional issues, and will examine specific situations and identify leading cases in great detail. Many of them will be supplemented at a faster pace than general (survey) treatises on constitutional law, keeping them current with newly decided cases from the federal courts. The trend in electronic publishing is for Lexis and Westlaw to place their text of their multi-volume print treatises online as an alternative source to the printed copy. One advantage of online access is that the material contained in the regular supplements and pocket parts is usually integrated with the main text. The best way to identify these print treatises is to use the library online catalog, or by asking a reference librarian for a recommendation.  Otherwise, they are usually highlighted as part of a subject’s organization in an online library.