Marbury v. Madison

Marbury v. Madison

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Background of the Case
3. Essence of the Legal Process
4. Issues Considered by the Supreme Court
5. Decision Taken by John Marshall
6. Significance of Marbury v. Madison case in the Judicial System of the USA
7. Conclusion
8. References

In the history of legal procedure in America the law case Marbury v. Madison, which took place in 1803, is considered the one that established the judicial review in America, i.e. the Supreme Court of America got the right to announce actions of the President, Congress or other state authorities unconstitutional. Since that, the Supreme Court resorted to this right a large amount of times and cancelled several hundreds of laws as void. In this paper, I am going to find out why Marbury v. Madison case was crucial and what its essence was.
In 1800 there was the presidential election won by Thomas Jefferson, who became the third president of the USA. His contribution into the development of the USA was immense; he really loved America and tried to do everything for the public good. He created a political party that united all branches of government, he improved American legislation and tried to set an example for the whole country by his governing at Virginia State, he inspired two political revolutions that changed the life of Americans gently and peacefully and during his retirement he established the University of Virginia. However, it was connected with his government that the judicial review was established and cancelled his directions. Despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson was elected on the February 17, 1801, he did not assume office until March 4, 1801. Till that time John Adams, the former American president, had the right to govern and he rapidly passed laws before his resignation. Under his government, Congress passed the Judiciary Act. According to it, sixteen circuit courts were created, exempting the judges of the Supreme Court from their duties to control the circuits. As a result of this order, forty-two justices of the peace and sixteen circuit judges were appointed. All of them were Federalists and it was done with a single aim – to try to impede the Republican Party to control Congress and Administration. Theses assignments got a name “Midnight Judges” as Adams approved all the commissions on the night of March 4, i.e. the day when Thomas Jefferson became the president. Actually, it was such panic rush that caused this celebrated case, which brought both an open scandal and a reform in the legal system of America.
To clarify the main point it should be mentioned that John Marshall, the Secretary of State during Adams’ government, did not have enough time to deliver all the commissions, subsequently this task passed to the following Secretary of State, James Madison. However, when Thomas Jefferson became the President he ordered not to deliver the rest of commissions as in his opinion if the appointees did not get the commissions in time, the appointments were invalid. Thus, many of appointed judges could not come into office. Among them, there was a successful financier and a famous in Washington Federalist William Marbury, who had been appointed a justice of the peace. Therefore, Marbury sued James Madison to make the Secretary to give him a commission as a justice of peace.
Taking a decision on this case the chief justice, John Marshall, had to resort to all his wisdom and mastery, as the situation was rather ambiguous. He realized that, on the one hand, the Court should sustain Marbury’s claim, as it was evident that William Marbury had the right to assume office as a justice. He also understood that then the administration would disregard it and thus would undermine the authority of the Supreme Court. On the other hand, John Marshall could not refuse Marbury in his claim as then the authority of the court could have also been damaged as it might have seemed that the court did not take the right decision because of the fear of the government. Marshall’s decision was really deep-laid. He asserted that Marbury had to be appointed the justice of peace, however, then he referred to the Article III of the Constitution: “In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned [within the judicial power of the United States], the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make” (Nelson, 2000, pp. 150). He said that the Court should follow that very Article and not the paragraph of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which exceeded the authority of the Court. “The Supreme Court shall also have appellate jurisdiction from the circuit courts and courts of the several states, in the cases herein after provided for; and shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts . . . and writs of mandamus… to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States” (Nelson, 2000, pp.151).
In the course of judging, several questions were considered. The first one was whether William Marbury had the right to get the commission he wanted. This question did not arouse a large amount of disputes as the appointment was done by the president and thus it had to be fulfilled. The second question was whether it was necessary to afford Marbury a remedy at law. This question as well as the previous one was answered unanimously. The court decided that any person that considered his or her rights to be violated could go to the law and demand for the remedy. So, in Marbury’s case he had to be remedied, however it was still unclear whether the writ of mandamus was the right remedy in that case. Having considered the corresponding article of the Constitution and the paragraph of the Judiciary Act, mentioned above, the chief justice Marshall came to a conclusion that if any law contradicts the Constitution, it is the Constitution that should be always followed. The Constitution is the main law of the State and therefore it must be supreme in any situation. Thus, the Supreme Court delivered the judgment that Marbury could not get the office of the justice of the peace because the Court could not violate the Constitution. Moreover, in the context of this case another issue, which gave grounds for the denial of Marbury’s commission, was considered. Original jurisdiction and the excess of this power were discussed. The inclusion of cases similar to that of Marbury was the violation of the original jurisdiction. According to the Article III the Supreme Court could try cases, concerning a limited number of people, mentioned in the Article, in all other cases the Court exceeded its powers. It proved once again that Marbury could not be given the commission.
Despite the fact that the Court pronounced against Marbury, this case played a decisive role in the history of American jurisdiction. Certainly, it is necessary to admit that the judicial review existed before Marbury case, however it was not developed and applied as widely as it was after the mentioned case. The Supreme Court received wider powers, particularly, to announce acts of the president and of Congress unconstitutional in case they did not follow the Constitution. It was a new function of the Court and due to it the Supreme Court started to play a more important role in the State and thus it took part in the government of the country on a par with Congress and the President. It was, in fact, a great contribution into the development of the country. However, there were numerous disputes on the topic of the judicial review. For example, Thomas Jefferson expressed the following point of view: “You seem… to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps…”(Irons, 2006, pp. 108). The question of the propriety of judicial review was largely discussed. Judicial review opponents based their opinions on the theory that it was impossible to establish judicial review, as it was not stipulated by any article of the Constitution. Therefore, the Supreme Court had no authority to do it. The supporters of judicial review claimed that any State needs a mechanism that can impede the government to pass unconstitutional laws. Nevertheless, the judicial review got the right to exist and be practiced, despite the fact that since Marbury v. Madison case it was first applied in 1856 in the Dred Scott case.
It was a new significant stage in the development of the jurisdiction of the USA. In addition, the impact of this case went far beyond only American court practice. It became a ground for a large amount of reforms in constitutions of certain European countries, particularly after the Second World War, when many constitutions were either redrafted or newly created. Thus, we cannot deny the significance of this case in the history of both the USA and the entire world.

References
Grossman J. B. (2003). The 200th Anniversary of Marbury v. Madison:The Reasons We
Should Still Care About the Decision, and The Lingering Questions It Left Behind. Retrieved November 22, 2007 from http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/9.htm
Irons P. (2006). A People’s History of the Supreme Court: The Men and Women Whose
Cases and Decisions Have Shaped Our Constitution. Penguin.
Nelson W. E. (2000). Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review.
University Press of Kansas.