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Constitutional Law I
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Steilen, Matthew

Constitution law
Spring 2014
Chapter 1: The Supreme Court’s Authority and Role
The Power of Judicial Review
Marbury v. Madison (1803) (pg. 2)
Facts: Marbury awarded commission by President Adams right before he left office, but never delivered to him (can’t become justice of people without paper).  The Secretary of State, John Marshall, never delivered (got lost on his desk).  The new Secretary of State, James Madison, was advised by Jefferson (new President) not to deliver the commissions the previous administration issued.  Marbury filed suit directly with Supreme Court requesting writ of mandamus to compel Sec. of State to deliver commission, under Sect. 13 of 1789 Judiciary Act, developed by Congress. 
Issue/Holding: Did Marbury have a right to his commission? Yes – the commission was signed by the President. Therefore, the appointment was made and the commission was complete.
Should he be afforded a remedy? Yes – When there is a right, there is a remedy.
Was Marbury entitled to a mandamus? No – The Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction in this matter.
Rule: Judicial Review by the Supreme Court is in place to ensure that laws conform to the spirit and letter of the constitution.
Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was held unconstitutional.
Marshall opinion
Marbury v. Madison establishes judicial review in the United States. State courts were practicing this beforehand for years. The idea had been around for years.
This is a writs of assistance case.
The Supreme Court was run in a procedurally different way before this.
The majority of the Supreme Court voted that something that Congress had done was unconstitutional à judges can refuse to enforce legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
This case is a significant movement.
The events of this case took place in 1801, but the Supreme Court was suspended in 1802. The case took place in 1803.
This was exploring the possibility that the impeachment clause may have some value. Marbury brings the matter to the Supreme Court. The Court hears Marbury’s case and is behaving as though it is okay. They proceed like they are in a trial court.
The opinion comes out and it is determined that the trial was completely illegitimate and there could never have been such proceedings in this case. It was a declaration about the role of law.
There was a political cleverness to this case. The judiciary branch has a final say in the question of constitutionality. The results that they come to cannot be protested.
When looking at whether Marbury had a right to a mandamus, the court split it into two questions: 1) Is this an appropriate writ? 2) Can is be issued by the court. This was the appropriate rit. So, Marshall had to decide whether it could issue it. Marshall could not avoid deciding the question. The only way that the court could not issue the writ is if there was something in Congress saying that they couldn’t.
In his opinion, Marshall looks directly at the statute à allows you to do this to an officer of the US. The only way they can’t is if the law is unconstitutional. There may be something defective about the statute.
Marshall quotes the constitution. It was argued that the Constitution has listed things the Supreme Court can do, but it is not a restrictive list. The statement “in all other cases” makes it an exclusive list. The idea that the list isn’t exclusive falls apart with the phrase “in all other cases.”

States' government was averted.
The case involved the Judiciary Act of 1801, which created a number of federal judgeships—the so-called “midnight judges” as the Act was passed by the lame-duck Federalists in their final days in office. The Act established new circuit court judges to hear intermediate appeals. As a result, Supreme Court justices would no longer have to “ride circuit” (which entailed substantial and often dangerous travel) to sit with district (trial) court judges to hear appeals throughout the nation. Yet soon after its passage, the statute was invalidated by the Repeal Act of March 8, 1802. Federalists attacked the Jeffersonian legislation, arguing that federal judges were appointed for life and therefore could not be constitutionally removed by the Repeal Act. The Judiciary Act of 1802 reinstated circuit courts but also resurrected the practice of circuit riding. Many thought the new 1802 Act unconstitutional, including new Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall argued that justices should not have to preside over circuit courts unless they were commissioned as circuit court judges. He wrote the other justices, “I am not of opinion that we can under our present appointments hold circuit courts, but I presume a contrary opinion is held by the Court and, if so, I shall conform to it.”[citation needed] Justice Samuel Chase agreed with Marshall, but the other justices did not.