- constitutional law
constitutional law n: a body of statutory and case law that is based on, concerns, or interprets a constitution
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam-Webster. 1996.
- constitutional law
the law that determines the relationship of the citizen to the state and that controls the operation of the various branches of the state. Some examples are now discussed.In the UK there is no single fundamental document in which the constitutional law can be found. The law is found in certain important Acts of Parliament (like the Acts of Union), in the law and custom of Parliament and in conventions. The supreme law-making body is the Queen in Parliament. The House of Lords is not a constitutional court and cannot generally strike down legislation. Membership of the European Communities has affected the constitutional law of the UK in ways not fully appreciated. There is a devolved Scottish Parliament and a National Assembly for Wales.In the USA, the Constitution, ratified by 13 states in 1788, is the heart of the American legal system. In seven articles and 26 amendments it lays down the political and legal structure of the federal government. The first ten amendments are known as the bill of rights. Changes are seldom effected, but the Supreme Court creatively interprets the intention of the first founding fathers of the Constitution. Each state has its own constitutional documents. The federal government is delegated specific powers involving regulating interstate trade, taxation and war treaties. Congress enacts laws. The executive function lies with the President of the USA. The Constitution provides the checks and balances to allow the three divisions of government to cooperate.In Australia, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 is an Act of the imperial UK Parliament. It can be amended only by a referendum procedure. The states themselves have constitutions also derived from the UK and antedating the federal constitution. Much more radical independence from the UK came with the Australia Act of 1986, which removed the right of appeal to the privy council. The Parliament consists of the Queen, Senate and a House of Representatives. Executive power is in the hands of the Queen, exercisable by the Governor General. Judicial power is in the hands of the High Court of Australia, headed by a Chief Justice. There is a division of powers between the states and the federal government, which, as in the USA, has been a source of much jurisdictional legislation and controversy. Many important powers are held concurrently. UK law no longer applies to Australia – indeed, no longer can apply; state parliaments can repeal any previous imperial legislation.The Canadian Constitution has three major written parts: the Constitution Acts of 1867 (formerly the British North America Act) and 1982 and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Meech Lake Constitutional Accord of 1987 was expected to come into force in 1992 but did not actually do so. By implication, the 1867 Act was held to imply the freedoms of the British Constitution. Executive authority in federal Canada resides in the Crown in the form of the Governor General, in the provinces in the Lieutenant Governors. Under conventions of the constitution, their powers are exercised only after consultation. The UK enacted the Canada Act 1982, which set up a new constitution and one that bound Quebec, despite its having rejected the package. The Meech Lake Constitutional Accord recognised the distinctiveness of Quebec. The Accord also gave the provinces increased power, allowing them to nominate persons for the Senate and the Supreme Court. It made constitutional certain practices, such as consultation of the provinces and the federal government. The procedure for amendment was changed. The Act provides that UK legislation should no longer apply to Canada and provides for a Charter of Rights and Freedoms – a Canadian bill of rights.In New Zealand the main constitutional provision is the Constitution Act of 1852, which gave responsible government to the Crown colony; also important is the New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947. Dominion status was granted in 1907. The Parliament of New Zealand can, like the UK Parliament, alter any previous laws, including all or any of the provisions of the Constitution Act. Parliaments are summoned and dissolved by proclamation of the Governor General – in dissolutions he acts on the advice of the prime minister – and a session lasts three years. It is a unicameral parliament. The government is led by a prime minister who has a cabinet and an administration – the executive council, including the non-cabinet ministers. The council is legally government and includes the Governor General.In Ireland, under the Constitution of the Republic, the head of state is directly elected by the people and may hold office for up to two seven-year terms. The President, on the nomination of Dail Eireann, appoints the Taoiseach, or prime minister, and, with the approval of the Taoiseach, the other members of the government. The Dail is summoned and dissolved by the President on the advice of the Taoiseach, and it is the President who must sign legislation before it can become law. The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer the bill to the Supreme Court for a decision on whether it is repugnant to the Constitution. The President's Commission exercises the functions of the President should that person be unable to do so through absence from the state, incapacity, resignation, removal or death. It comprises the Chief Justice, the Chairman of Dail Eireann and the Chairman of Seanad Eireann.
Collins dictionary of law. W. J. Stewart. 2001.
- constitutional law
n. The body or branch of law concerned with the study, interpretation, and application of a country or state's constitution, including the issues of governance, the powers of the branches and levels of government, civil liberties, and civil rights.
Webster's New World Law Dictionary. Susan Ellis Wild. 2000.
- constitutional law
The written text of the state and federal constitutions. The body of judicial precedent that has gradually developed through a process in which courts interpret, apply, and explain the meaning of particular constitutional provisions and principles during a legal proceeding.Executive, legislative, and judicial actions that conform with the norms prescribed by a constitutional provision.
Dictionary from West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005.
- constitutional law
The written text of the state and federal constitutions. The body of judicial precedent that has gradually developed through a process in which courts interpret, apply, and explain the meaning of particular constitutional provisions and principles during a legal proceeding.Executive, legislative, and judicial actions that conform with the norms prescribed by a constitutional provision.II Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions.
Short Dictionary of (mostly American) Legal Terms and Abbreviations.
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