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Marbury v. Madison (1803)

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on 14 May 2014

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Transcript of Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Plaintiff v. Defendant
Plaintiff: William Marbury applied directly to the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of mandamus to compel Jefferson’s Secretary of State.

Defendant: James Madison was meant to deliver the commissions. The Judiciary Act of 1789 had granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus “…to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.”

Constitutional?
Did Marbury have a legal right to his commission?
Would a writ of mandamus enforce his right?
Could the Court issue the writ?

Chief Justice Marshall announced the decision on February 24 that a writ of mandamus could enforce Marbury's legal right to his commission, but the Court does not have the power to issue the writ.

Marshall proclaimed the most distinctive power of the Supreme Court, the power to declare an Act of Congress unconstitutional.


The Justices' vote
Decision: 4 votes for Madison, 0 vote(s) against

In a unanimous decision, written by Justice Marshall, the Court stated that Marbury, indeed, had a right to his commission.

Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional.

Marshall's opinion, only the Congress could have the power to issue an order granting commission; the Supreme Court could not.

Supreme Court could not force Jefferson and Madison to appoint Marbury, because it did not have the power to do so.

March 2, 1801
Marbury's desire
Judiciary Act of 1789- law that defined the Judicial Branch of the federal government:

-The number of members of the Supreme Court (6)
-The number of lower district courts (13)
-The idea that the Supreme Court can settle disputes between states
-The idea that a decision by the Supreme Court is final.

This was overturned.


Marbury v Madison established the precedent of Judicial Review — reviewing an act of Congress and judging whether or not it is constitutional.

The court first invalidated an act of Congress in 1794 but it was the landmark case of Marbury v Madison in 1803 which set forth the rationale for the Supreme Court's assumption of this power, which is not granted to it by the Constitution.

William Marbury wanted the Secretary of State to deliver his commission so he could begin working as a federal Justice of the Peace. He wanted the Supreme Court to force Madison to send him his commission.

Work Cited
Federalist, William Marbury, was designated as a Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia.

Marbury and several others were appointed to government posts created by Congress in the last days of John Adams' presidency.

However, the appointments were never finalized because President John Adams' term was over, and the current Secretary of State failed to deliver all commissions.

The appointments should have been enacted when Thomas Jefferson came into presidency.

William Marbury of Washington went straight to the Supreme Court.
"FindLaw | Legal Commentary." FindLaw's Writ. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.
"Marbury v. Madison – Case Brief Summary." Lawnix Free Case Briefs RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.
"MARBURY v. MADISON." Marbury v. Madison. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.
"Marbury vs Madison." Marbury v. Madison. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.
"The Marshall Court, 1801-1835." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2014.
"The Marshall Court, 1801-1835." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2014.
Writ of Mandamus
an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
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