Marbury v. Madison 1803

By THELAW.TV Editorial Staff

Marbury v. Madison is a major U.S. Supreme Court case that was decided in 1803. It is a landmark case that established the principle of judicial review, which is the power of the U.S. Supreme Court to review and strike down laws passed by Congress. This ruling affirmed the role of the federal judiciary in the Constitution and established the precedent of the Supreme Court as the ultimate authority on questions of the Constitution.

The legal dispute began when President John Adams appointed William Marbury as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia on the day before he left office in 1801. Adams appointed him during the “midnight appointments,” which were controversial at the time, as they were viewed as a way for outgoing presidents to fill government positions with their own allies. When Thomas Jefferson was sworn in as president, he created a new set of federal judges and removed Marbury. Marbury then sued Secretary of State James Madison in the Supreme Court, claiming that Madison had denied him his appointment and that the court should issue a “writ of mandamus” ordering Madison to give him the appointment.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in a 5-4 decision against Marbury. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the majority opinion that established the principle of judicial review. He argued that the Judiciary Act of 1789, which had authorized Marbury’s appointment, conflicted with the Constitution and was therefore unconstitutional. This marked the first time in U.S. history that a court had declared a law unconstitutional.

Marshall’s opinion also clarified the roles of the three branches of government in terms of the Constitution. He noted that Congress could not pass a law that was contrary to the Constitution, and he argued that the Supreme Court was the final arbiter in determining whether a law was constitutional or not. This ruling established judicial review as an important part of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances among the different branches of government.

Marbury v. Madison is still an important case today, as it set the precedent of the Supreme Court being the final authority in determining the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress. The ruling established that Congress could not pass laws that violated the Constitution, and that it was the Supreme Court’s job to review and strike down such laws. This case is seen as the starting point of a strong, independent judiciary that protects individual liberty and upholds the rule of law.