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Marbury v. Madison

February 21, 2014

Chief Justice John Marshall, appointed to the Supreme Court and as Secretary of State by President John Adams, established the basis for judicial review in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803).  The conflict began in 1803 when Marshall, in his concurrent role as Secretary of State, left commission papers for John Marbury, appointed by President Adams as a justice of the peace for the District of Columbia.  Marshall briefly continued his tenure as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson, until the appointment of James Madison as Secretary of State.  Of the opposing party, Madison refused to surrender the commission papers to Marbury;  Marbury sued for a writ of mandamus to compel Madison to act.

In his decision, Marshall ruled that the Supreme Court could not compel Madison to turn over the commission.  Notably, Marshall ruled that a section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that permitted Marbury to bring his suit was beyond those powers granted in Article and so was in conflict with the Constitution and, as such, void.  Nothing in the Constitution specifically grants review power to the judicial branch.  By reviewing the actions of Adams along with the legislation, Marshall established the judiciary branch as equal to the executive and legislative branches.

Read more about Marshall and Marbury v. Madison:

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