William Marbury, one of the midnight judges, was appointed Justice of the Peace under John Adams as Adams worked heavily in his last night of office. Marbury never received the commission for his appointment, so new Secretary of state James Madison never delivered it. Marbury sued for a writ of mandamus, a right supposedly given by the Judiciary Act of 1789. Madison refused and the case was immediately sent to the Supreme Court, an extremely uncommon occurrence.
Marbury examined the Judiciary Act. While it said that the writ was a legal function that was due to Marbury, it gave the Supreme Court jurisdiction over Writs of Mandamus. Marshall then examined Article III of the Constitution and looked at the Supreme Court’s original jurisdictions. It listed nothing of writs of Mandamus. Marshall declared that Congress could not revise the Supreme Court’s jurisdictions in a piece of legislation. Marshall was obligated to uphold the Constitution above the piece of legislation due to the Supremacy Clause.
William Marbury was very upset over the outcome of his suit, as one could imagine. The Supreme Court stated that Section 13 of the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional and thus, invalid. Madison never delivered the writ and Marbury never saw his position as Justice of the Peace.
To that date, the Supreme Court had never declared a piece of legislation as unconstitutional. The decision is of paramount importance in United States judicial history. Judicial review is one of the key policies in our legal system, and one that keeps the other two branches from passing unfair legislation.
Judicial review is a key power of the Supreme Court. The policy has been used in cases such as Marbury v. Madison, the Dredd Scott Case, and The United States vs. Richard Nixon. The policy of Judicial Review has set the Supreme Court apart as the final word on matters of constitutionality. While the Supreme Court has the power to declare acts unconstitutional, other courts have the power to evaluate the legality of other actions made by lower courts under judicial review.
Jefferson and Marshall were life long rivals and ones that almost hardly agreed. Through the dismissal of the case, Marshall labeled Jefferson as a violator of civil rights, as Jefferson had passed a law into effect that had violated the Constitution. Marshall, the last Federalist, would stay in his position all throughout Jefferson’s term.
Marbury v. Madison gave Supreme Court Complete and final control over constitutionality of legislation. For this reason it is historically significant.
John Marshall, the Head Supreme Court Justice at the time, dismissed Marbury’s suit. As Marbury based his appeal on the Judiciary Act of 1789, Marshall declared part of the act unconstitutional. Marshall declared that Congress did not have the power to change the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. This led Marshall to dismiss the case.
Thomas Jefferson originally disagreed with Marshall’s ruling. Marshall’s logic for Judicial Review has been argued heavily in history. Certain individuals say that the court was improper in examining any matters beyond jurisdiction.
Is Marbury V. Madison the most significant Supreme Court Case of all time?
While some would argue to the contrary, Marbury v. Madison is the most important decision ever rendered by the Supreme Court. It asserted the Supreme Court’s powers and labeled their jurisdictions. Without judicial review, the legal system of the United States would be much different.