Constitution in the United States

Constitution Definition in the Legislative Process

The following is a definition of Constitution, by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): A written instrument embodying the fundamental principles of the state that guarantees powers and duties of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people.

Legal Materials

Not: the Encyclopedia of Law offers a U.S. Constitutional encyclopedia here.

Unannotated versions of the U.S. Constitution are published in the back of Black’s Law Dictionary, in West’s Federal Civil Judicial Procedure and Rules, in the American Jurisprudence 2d Deskbook and many other places. Unannotated versions are posted free on Web by the National Archives, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute and others.

Annotated versions of the U.S. Constitution are published as part of the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service (see “United States Code”). Free versions annotated with links to relevant U.S. Supreme Court cases are available on FDsys and FindLaw.

For a summary of the law concerning the various clauses of the U.S. Constitution, seeConstitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, which is often (inaccurately) referred to as the “Constitution Annotated.” For a more thorough discussion, see Rotunda and Nowak’s Treatise on Constitutional Law: Substance and Procedure (Thomson/West).

Ratified amendments to the U.S. Constitution are published in Black’s, the USCA and USCS. They are also posted by Cornell and FindLaw.

For a general discussion of the U.S. Constitution, see Fundamentals of Legal Research (West). See also “The Other Amendments: Constitutional Amendments That Failed,” 92(2) Law Library Journal 303 (Spring 2001).

Basic Meaning of Constitution

Constitution, sometimes and basically, may mean: any fundamental or important law or edict.

The Constitution of the United States of America : Main Elements

The coverage of The Constitution of the United States of America includes the following main elements:

The Structure of the Constitution

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Article I

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Article I

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Article I

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Article I

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Article I

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Article II

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Article II

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Article II

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Article III

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See Also

  • Basic Principles of Law
  • Constitution

Constitution Background


See Also

  • Legislative Power
  • Legislative History
  • Legislative Ethics
  • Legislative Session
  • Legislature
  • Legislative Branch
  • Legislation
  • Executive Branch
  • Legislative Function
  • Federal Legislative History
  • Public Laws
  • State Constitutions

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Constitution in the Context of Law Research

The Thurgood Marshall School of Law Library defined briefly Constitution as: The system of fundamental principles by which a political body or organization governs itself. Most national constitutions are written; the English and Israeli constitutions are unwritten.Legal research resources, including Constitution, help to identify the law that governs an activity and to find materials that explain that law.

Constitution: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Constitution. This part provides references, in relation to Constitution, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Constitution by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Constitution and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Constitution or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Constitution and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Constitution. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Constitution should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Constitution when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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