Course: Introduction / Procedural Law
Marbury v. Madison (1803) is a landmark SCOTUS decision in which the Court established its power of judicial review.
Marbury v. Madison (1803) is widely regarded as one of the most important cases in American legal history. The case arose out of a dispute over a federal appointment, but it ultimately established the principle of judicial review, which is the power of federal courts to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.
The case began in 1801 when President John Adams appointed William Marbury to a justice of the peace position in the District of Columbia. However, before Marbury could receive his commission, the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, not to deliver the commission. Marbury sued Madison in the Supreme Court, seeking a writ of mandamus ordering Madison to deliver the commission.
The Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, held that Marbury had a right to the commission but that the Court did not have the authority to issue the writ of mandamus. The Court reasoned that the law that authorized the writ of mandamus was unconstitutional because it purported to give the Supreme Court jurisdiction over cases that were not allowed by the Constitution.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court established the principle of judicial review, which allows federal courts to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. The Court held that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that any law that conflicts with it is void. Therefore, the Court had the power to strike down laws that were unconstitutional.
The decision in Marbury v. Madison has had far-reaching implications for the role of the judiciary in the American political system. It established the principle of judicial review, which has been used by the Supreme Court to strike down numerous federal and state laws over the years. This power has made the Supreme Court one of the most important institutions in the American government and has given it a critical role in shaping the course of American history.
In addition to its impact on the judiciary, Marbury v. Madison has had a profound effect on American constitutional law. The decision has been cited in countless cases over the years, and it remains a cornerstone of constitutional law to this day. Its legacy can be seen in the way that the Constitution is interpreted and applied by the courts, as well as in the ongoing debates over the proper role of the judiciary in the American government.
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Last Modified: 04/08/2023