Constitutional Law: What is the Law of the Land?

Constitutional Law: What is the Law of the Land?

I know what you’re thinking: “Constitutional Law? That’s just the laws laid out in the constitution. It’s the basic laws that we follow in the United States.” You’re right, but constitutional law is also a little more complex than that. Let’s dive into what constitutional law is, why it’s important, and the difficulties that arise.

What is Constitutional Law?

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of our country—it defines what laws we value and the rights of our citizens. So, it is unsurprising that constitutional law follows the guidelines of the constitution, or a constitution, for the individual states.
Dictionary.com puts it concisely: “the body of law that evolves from a constitution, setting out the fundamental principles according to which a state is governed and defining the relationship between the various branches of government within the state.”

Why is Constitutional Law Important?

The importance of constitutional law lies primarily in the power of the document it follows—the Constitution dictates what powers each branch has in the federal government as well as the three branches in each state government. Constitutional law is important because it concerns the study of governmental principles and ensures that the Constitution is properly interpreted and executed. The rights of American citizens, the states, and the government are all laid out—when all else fails, we turn to the Constitution as a guide.

Supreme court rulings are also very important to constitutional law, as the Supreme Court is responsible for constitutional interpretation.

Things Change

If the Constitution is the be-all, end-all of government documents in the United States, what happens when circumstances or public opinion changes? When a constitutional ‘decree’ no longer represents the notions of the U.S.? That’s where an amendment comes in.
Amendments have long been used to modify the original Constitution to better suit the ideals of the government and our people.
You’d think that amendments are frequently incited to keep the Constitution up-to-date as it were, but in the 230 years since the Constitution was signed, only 27 amendments have been ratified.

Why is the Amendment Process Difficult?

It is next to impossible to ratify a new amendment to the Constitution. The primary hurdle in getting a new amendment passed lies in what is required to propose a new amendment. According to Article 5 of the Constitution, a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate is required, or two-thirds of the states must request it. That calls for 67 senators and 290 representatives in the house (what is called a supermajority) or the legislatures of 34 states. Getting that many politicians or state legislatures to agree on something is a tremendous feat.

Constitutional law is always changing, but it’s purpose stays the same: to uphold the Constitution while also protecting the rights of Americans. Just think of all those landmark Supreme Court cases!