Marbury v. Madison | Supreme Court Case Review

Marbury v. Madison

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Marbury vs. Madison was the first Supreme Court judgment that supported the federal system of government. Before we go any further, I want to give you a little bit of background on this case. William Marbury was appointed to a government position by the current president. The Secretary of State, James Madison, would not deliver the documents commissioning Marbury to become a justice of the peace for the District of Columbia.

William Marbury brought his case before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided what James Madison had done by withholding the documents was wrong, but they would not force James Madison, the Secretary of State, to deliver the documents. That is because they ruled that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional.

Why is that important? That’s because the Judiciary Act of 1789 was the act that allowed Marbury to have his case tried before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional, because it made the court’s power bigger than allowed by the Constitution.

Because the act which allowed the case to be tried was unconstitutional, they said they could not even really consider the case of William Marbury, because he wasn’t even supposed to be in the court in the first place trying that case. What happened because of this case was it set up a process that we call “judicial review”.

Judicial review is the concept that the judiciary can determine that a law is unconstitutional. The effect of this is that it gives more power to the U.S. Constitution than to the legislature. This is because laws can be created and passed by the legislature, but they may still be deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

When talking about government, when discussing government, we often talk about a system of checks and balances, which exists in our government. Marbury vs. Madison, the concept of judicial review, helped bring about more checks and balances in the federal government.

There is already the check and balance between the executive branch and the legislative branch. The legislative branch cannot pass a law unless it was first signed by the executive branch. Of course, they could override with a veto, but that would be somewhat difficult.

The legislative branch had to approve many of the things that the president may want to do. With this, the legislature couldn’t do whatever it wanted. If it passed a law that was in contrast to the U.S. Constitution, then the Supreme Court could rule that law unconstitutional. The legislative branch couldn’t pass it.

Now, we see checks and balances between the legislative branch and the judicial branch. The constitution was now held in higher esteem in the legislature. The legislature had to do things in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution took a larger role as the rulebook by which the legislature had to follow.



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: August 20, 2019