Marbury Vs Madison Supreme Court Case Discussion


Marbury Vs Madison is a landmark case that demonstrated the power of judicially in resolving government administrative conflicts. President John Adams on his final day in the office, he named sixteen new justices of circuit courts of Columbia district and forty two peace justices as guided by the Organic Act. President Adams signed the commission before leaving and they were sealed by John Marshall who was the acting State Secretary. However, they were not delivered before the expiry of President Adam’s term. As a result, Thomas Jefferson, the president who took over refused to acknowledge the commissions. According to him, the commissions were invalid since they were not delivered by before the end of Adam’s term. This made William Marbury the petitioner who was among the appointees for peace justice to apply for writ of mandamus from the United States Supreme Court to compel James Madison the defendant who was Jefferson State Secretary to deliver the commissions. Marbury application was directed by 1789 Judiciary Act that granted original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to issue mandamus writs to any office holder or courts appointed under the United States authority.


The case issues were, whether Marbury contained right to the commission, whether the law offered a remedy to Marbury, and whether the Supreme Court contained the power to review Congress act and establish its adherence to the constitution and nullifying it if it does not. Other issues included whether the Supreme Court contained original jurisdiction to offer mandamus writ and whether Congress can expand the original jurisdiction scope of the Supreme Court beyond what provided in the constitution in Article III.

Court Holding

Based on the court holding Marbury had a right to the commission since the constitution executive appointment power had been exercised. Marbury commission power was effectively granted when President Adams signed it. Marbury also had a remedy, according to the court, Marbury was allowed by civil liberty to claim for laws protection in case of injury and thus the government had a duty to protect his appointment. The ruling also established that Supreme Court had the power to review Congress acts and establish if they are unconstitutional and therefore null and thus the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional and thus void.  It was also found that the Congress did not have power to expand the original jurisdiction scope of the Supreme Court beyond what provided in the constitution in Article III.

Case Implication Regarding Judicial Power

The case demonstrated the judicial power in defining the law and resolving conflicts in law interpretation. In this instance, the judicial identified constitutional law to be more superior as compared to any other enacted act. According to the ruling, any enacted Act must be consistent with the constitutional law; otherwise it is null and void. Moreover when there is a conflict in the law, constitutional law should be the most appropriate law to be used to resolve the situation. Although the decision immediate effect was to deny court the power to issue writ, its long-term effect has eventually been to augment the power of the court by determining the rule which forcefully provided the judicial department the obligation of interpreting the law and allowing what is right to prevail. According to (1) since the Marbury v. Madison case the Supreme Court has been the ultimate arbiter of the congress legislation constitutionality.


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