AP US Government : Constitutional Interpretations

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Constitutional Interpretations

The recent debate over internet privacy most closely concerns which of the following amendments?

Possible Answers:

4th Amendment

7th Amendment

6th Amendment

8th Amendment

2nd Amendment

Correct answer:

4th Amendment

Explanation:

The 4th Amendment, which establishes requirements for search warrants based on probable cause and prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, is the only possible answer.  The other choices protect the right to bear arms (the 2nd Amendment), the right to a fair and speedy public trial (the 6th Amendment), and the right to a trial by jury in certain civil cases (the 7th Amendment). The 8th Amendment prohibits excessive bonds or fines and outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

Example Question #2 : Constitutional Interpretations

Which of the following is most closely associated with the judicial philosophy known as Strict Constructionism?

Possible Answers:

A belief that term limits should be established for Supreme Court Justices.

A decidedly pro-choice stance

A belief that courts should not reinterpret the Constitution

A belief that courts should overturn bad or harmful laws

A belief that courts should not limit themselves to what is explicitly stated in the Constitution

Correct answer:

A belief that courts should not reinterpret the Constitution

Explanation:

The answer is "A belief that courts should not reinterpret the Constitution."  Those that believe in Strict Constructionism are proponents of the view that it is not the responsibility of the courts to take liberties in interpreting the Constitution.  

Example Question #2 : Constitutional Interpretations

The Elastic Clause relates to which body of the United States government?

Possible Answers:

The Executive

The lower courts

The Supreme Court

The President

Congress

Correct answer:

Congress

Explanation:

The Elastic Clause, also called the Necessary and Proper Clause, states that Congress shall have the power to make any laws relating to the powers already prescribed to it under the Constitution. It is called the Elastic Clause because it greatly expanded the scope of power available to Congress.

Example Question #4 : Constitutional Interpretations

Proponents of "original intent" would most likely argue that __________.

Possible Answers:

the decisions of the Supreme Court should ignore the precedent handed down from the original intent of prior Court rulings

the Constitution should be interpreted without regard to the original intent of the Founding Fathers

the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the Founding Fathers

the decisions of the Supreme Court should take into account the precedent handed down from the original intent of prior Court rulings

the issue of slavery should be resolved diplomatically based on the original intent of the Founding Fathers

Correct answer:

the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the Founding Fathers

Explanation:

"Original intent" is the name given to one means of interpreting the Constitution. Proponents of original intent argue that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent and motivation behind the decisions made by the Founding Fathers. Proponents of original intent might also be called "strict constructionists."

Example Question #5 : Modern Impacts Of The Constitution

Which provision in the U.S. Constitution allowed the Americans with Disabilities Act to be passed?

Possible Answers:

The 9th Amendment

The 27th Amendment

The Commerce Clause

The Equal Protection Clause

Correct answer:

The Commerce Clause

Explanation:

The Commerce Clause gives the Federal Government a wide array of powers, because so many things concern business that happens across state lines. The ability to do business is greatly dependent upon whether people have access to the things required to participate in business activities, particularly those that are disabled. By ensuring that people with disabilities have many of the same opportunities as those without disabilities the government is able to ensure that all people, regardless of what state they are in, have equal opportunity within the business world. The ability to regulate commerce between the states allowed Congress to step-in and pass this landmark law.

Example Question #6 : Modern Impacts Of The Constitution

Please select the one historic event that most prompted the Supreme Court to reduce its limitations upon the national government’s management of commerce.

Possible Answers:

The Civil War 

The Great Depression 

World War II

The War on Terror 

Correct answer:

The Great Depression 

Explanation:

While the Supreme Court has acted quite a few times to loosen its reins over the federal government and its management of commercial activity, the Great Depression was, by far, the most decisive prompting event for the Court. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt began to pass various wide-ranging economic and welfare laws as part of his New Deal, which was intended to slow down the Depression’s ravages on ordinary citizens, the Court was at first suspicious and hostile. But by 1937, the Court had seen the wisdom in the President’s New Deal and over the course of the next several years, the Court relaxed the commercial constraints it had once placed upon the federal government, thereby allowing the President and Congress to take broad action to shore up the struggling economy, to relieve poverty, and to create job opportunities across the nation. This trend continued for several decades, but more recently, the Court has slowly begun to reverse itself and has started to revoke some of these more expansive permissions, to the pleasure of the states.

Example Question #7 : Modern Impacts Of The Constitution

Please select the section of the Constitution most often cited in defense of the state governments’ powers and the corresponding limitations of the federal government.

Possible Answers:

The Supremacy Clause

The Tenth Amendment

The Eleventh Amendment

The Necessary and Proper Clause

Correct answer:

The Tenth Amendment

Explanation:

Advocates of states’ rights, as well as other individuals concerned with placing constraints upon the national government, most often cite the Tenth Amendment as the Constitution’s most powerful defense of the powers of state governments. According to the Tenth Amendment, any and all powers that the Constitution does not expressly grant to the federal government – and which are not conversely banned from state usage – “are reserved to the states respectively.” In other words, this leaves many powers not clearly described in the Constitution available to the states – in theory. In actuality, the Supreme Court has customarily disagreed; throughout the long history of disputes over power and control between the states and the federal government, the Supreme Court has most often proclaimed the federal government to be the victor. According to the Supreme Court (and other pro-national government advocates), the Tenth Amendment is trumped by the Supremacy Clause. Contained in Article IV of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause states that any laws and treaties passed in Washington, D.C. automatically overrule any state laws (just as long as the national government’s actions fall within the Constitution’s purview, of course). The Supremacy Clause sets the Constitution up as the supreme law of the land, with the federal government as the document’s most empowered enforcer. Yet this has not stopped state governments from challenging federal actions and each victory for a state has often emboldened the others.

Example Question #8 : Modern Impacts Of The Constitution

 What is the Constitutional reasoning for giving the President the power to nominate a Supreme Court Justice and the Senate the power to approve his nomination?

Possible Answers:

The Supreme Court works closely with the President in governing the United States and ruling on the laws of the United States

The Senate and the Supreme Court have a role in impeaching a President and therefore the Senate should approve a judge that agrees with their beliefs

Article II of the Constitution created this process to maintain a separation of power between the Executive and Legislative Branches

The Senate has more time to review the nomination of the judge

The President, as the Executive, has more knowledge of the judges who could become Supreme Court Justices

Correct answer:

Article II of the Constitution created this process to maintain a separation of power between the Executive and Legislative Branches

Explanation:

The Supreme Court of the United States stands distinct from the other branches of government. It was created with the intent of being independent and free of political influence to enable it to rule clearly on the cases brought before it without any prejudgment or belief. While several of the answer options may seem logical, they imply a close relationship between the the Supreme Court and the Executive and Legislative Branch that is not included in the Constitution.  

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