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Marbury v. Madison – History & Precedent

Historical Background of Marbury v. Madison

As President John Adams’ term came to a close, it became evident the Federalist Party’s power was waning. In an attempt to sway power back to the Federalists, two acts were passed in the final days of Adams’ term prior to Thomas Jefferson (Democrat-Republican) taking Presidential office.

The Judiciary Act of 1801 passed three weeks prior to the end of Adams’ Presidential term, expanding the Federal judiciary. This allowed the President to appoint 16 additional (Federalist) Federal judges to new judgeships leaving political sway to the Federalist party.

In the final three days of the Adams’ term, the Organic Act of 1801 passed, removing jurisdiction of Washington D.C. from Maryland and Virginia, placing it under congressional control. This Act allowed the President to appoint any number of Justices of the Peace for Washington D.C. Adams quickly appointed 42 new (Federalist) Justices of the Peace before leaving office. Secretary of State, John Marshall worked late hours into the night recording and sealing each commission. Given time constraints Marshall left the delivery of the commissions to the incoming Secretary of State, James Madison (Democrat-Republican).

Upon entering office, rather than leaving Madison to deliver the commissions, and finding the number of Federalist appointees excessive, Jefferson eliminated 12 of the 42 seats, and then reassigned an additional 5 seats appointing Democrats-Republicans in place of the originally intended Federalists.

Having lost his commission at Jefferson’s hand, Marbury appealed to the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order Secretary of State, Madison to deliver the commissions.

The Property Rights Lawyers at Kassouni Law Evaluate the Legal Implications of the Marbury v. Madison Decision…

The judicial decision set the precedent by which our government still operates. The Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison affirmed the judiciary’s right of judicial review. In essence, the legislative branch and the executive branches of the government cannot conduct business or law in an unconstitutional manner. Therefore, the judiciary has the ultimate authority to determine compliance with the Constitution.

To read the Marbury v. Madison United State Supreme Court decision, click here.