Historical backdrop of Marbury v. Madison - Paper Example

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Marbury v. Madison is most famous and groundbreaking legal proceedings in the history of the US. It was the first case to apply the judicial review which is the ability of federal courts to oppose the acts of congress which are not in line with the Constitution (Bloom, 2014). The decision made in this case played a major role in making the Supreme Court an independent body of the government with the same powers as the executive and the Congress. This case started with John Adams when he tried to appoint William Marbury as a Justice of the Peace, but was unable to finish the appointment before his presidency ended. In fact, John Adam left power before he could officially appoint Marbury. Appointment of Marbury occurred after John Adams presidency, and Marbury took the role of Justice of the Peace. However, the incoming president Thomas Jefferson together with James Madison his Secretary of State refused to accept Marburys appointment. William Marbury was upset with the turn of events, and he decided to seek the Supreme Courts assistance. Chief Justice John Marshall interpreted the case of Marbury v. Madison, and after the trial, he explained that it was unlawful to deny the appointment of Marbury, although Thomas Jefferson had the last laugh.

Justice Marshalls rationale in reaching his final ruling in the case

The court ruled that Marburys appointment was constitutional and that the president Thomas Jefferson and his Secretary Madison had violated the law by refusing to accept William Marburys appointment. Before making his final verdict, Marshall asked three questions. First, Did Marbury have the right to be appointed? Second, what were the alternatives provided by the law in events where his rights have been violated? Third, would the proper alternative be a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court? I believe the answer to these three questions explains Justice Marshalls rationale in reaching his final ruling in the case. In his final ruling, Marshall argued that the judiciarys primary responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and that it had the power to oppose the unconstitutional acts of the congress. In response to the first question, Marshall ruled that Marburys appointment was constitutional since he had been appointed by the provisions of the Constitution. He explained that Marburys rights had been violated and therefore the court had to seek for the alternatives provided by the law. Therefore, answering the second question, Marshall ruled that the courts had the responsibility to protect the rights of the people even against the president of the US. The final question allowed Justice Marshall to address the judicial review matter. He explained that according to the Constitution, the Supreme Court had no power to issue the writs of mandamus. Thus, Marbury never got his job back.

Significance of Marbury v. Madison

It is evident that since the Marbury v. Madison case, the Supreme Court has evolved to be one of the most powerful bodies in the country. The case established the concept of judicial review, which meant that the Judiciary had the power to declare a law unconstitutional. I believed this case established the Judiciary as an equal branch of all the three branches of government. It is essential to know that it was in the early days of the United States government, and the nation was still attempting to figure out how democracy works. This case enabled the Supreme Court to be a kind of watchdog body which will protect the Constitution of the land and ensure that the policies made by the Congress or commission by the president are in line with the provisions of the Constitution. The Supreme Court was initially founded to interpret laws and not to overturn them (Ray, 2016). However, it has grown to be one of the most major bodies in preserving the democracy of the United States. This is because it regularly invalidates federal and state laws that it deems unconstitutional. Thanks to Marbury v. Madison case, the Supreme Court nowadays has the right to virtually create policies depending on their constitutional interpretations as well as set public laws. Justice Marshall's ideology of judicial review created a balance of power between the branches of the government.

Impact of the Marbury v. Madison decision on the role of Judiciary

Judiciarys primary responsibility is to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and to ensure that the rule of law prevails. Its mandate is to protect the powerless from the powerful and ensure that all individuals get justice (Alexander, 2013). Marbury v. Madison supported the Supreme Court to establish their purpose of interpreting laws and determining if they conflict with Constitution. In fact, according to the Supreme Court, the Constitution gives the judiciary the power to oppose the laws implemented by the Congress. Through the principle of judicial review, Justice Marshall made it crystal clear that the decisions made by Justices are unbiased and not based on any intimidation or fear. From Marshalls remarks, we notice that the Courts have the obligation of articulating the meaning of the Constitution and in determining the constitutionality of several policies implemented by the Congress. Since the Marbury and Madison case, the Supreme Court has had a lot of chances to exercise its power of judicial review.


Bloom, L. H. (2014). Marbury v. Madison. Do Great Cases Make Bad Law?, 1-22. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199765881.003.0001

Ray, C. (2016). John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and the Construction of Constitutional Legitimacy. Law, Culture and the Humanities. doi:10.1177/1743872116650867

Alexander, L. (2013). Constitutional Rules, Constitutional Standards, and Constitutional Settlement: Marbury v. Madison and the Case for Judicial Supremacy. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.445900

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