Marbury v. Madison

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Procedural Law

Marbury v. Madison is a landmark case in United States law that established the principle of judicial review.

The Supreme Court of the United States heard the case in 1803. It was initiated by William Marbury, who had been appointed as a justice of the peace by President John Adams in the waning days of his presidency.

However, when Thomas Jefferson became president, his Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to deliver Marbury’s commission, and Marbury sued for its delivery. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that although Marbury was entitled to his commission, the provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that gave the Supreme Court the power to issue a writ of mandamus in such cases was unconstitutional.

This decision established the principle of judicial review, which means that the Supreme Court has the power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. The case is widely regarded as one of the most important in American history because it established the Supreme Court’s authority as a co-equal branch of government and ensured the principle of checks and balances between the three branches of government.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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