Article VI | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Law

Article VI contains the supremacy clause, which establishes the superiority of federal law over state law.

Article VI of the United States Constitution contains the supremacy clause, which is a critical component of the U.S. legal system. This clause establishes that the federal government’s laws and treaties take precedence over state laws and constitutions in cases of conflict.

The supremacy clause is designed to prevent conflicts between state and federal law and to ensure that the U.S. government can effectively carry out its functions. The clause states that “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

This means that when there is a conflict between federal law and state law, federal law takes precedence. For example, if a state law contradicts a federal law, the federal law would be considered supreme and would take precedence over the state law. This ensures that federal laws are consistent and uniform across the country and that the federal government can effectively carry out its functions.

The supremacy clause has been used to resolve a variety of legal disputes throughout U.S. history. For example, in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the U.S. Supreme Court used the supremacy clause to establish that a state could not tax a federal institution, such as a bank, because federal law takes precedence over state law.

The supremacy clause has also been used to ensure that federal civil rights laws are enforced uniformly across the country. For example, during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the federal government used the supremacy clause to ensure that African Americans could exercise their right to vote, even in states that had laws restricting voting rights.

In addition to resolving conflicts between federal and state law, the supremacy clause also ensures that treaties made by the federal government take precedence over state laws. This is important for maintaining the U.S. government’s relationships with other countries and for ensuring that the country’s foreign policy is consistent and effective.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/04/2023

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