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Impact of Marbury and Madison on The Supreme Court

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William Marbury was appointed by former president John Adams as justice of the District of Columbia. Many men, himself included, did not receive their legal commissions to start practicing as a judge in their respective positions. James Madison, secretary of state under Thomas Jefferson, was the person supposed to deliver these commissions, but never did, under advisement from Thomas Jefferson. Marbury sued Madison and the result was one of the most historic court cases in the history of the United States and the decision still affects Americans today. According to the article, Marbury v. Madison, “[John] Marshall was the ‘father of the Supreme Court,’ almost single handedly clarifying its powers.” John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the one who made the final call on Marbury vs. Madison and America is still reaping the rewards from this historic case today.

Article III of the United States Constitution does not explicitly state anything about the term “judicial review”. Judicial review is a concept in which judges are given the authority to deem a legislative act unconstitutional. Even though the concept of judicial review was created and used long before the Marbury vs. Madison decision, the United States did not use it at all. The result of Marbury vs. Madison had the Supreme Court assuming many powers, that were not at all used by the Supreme Court before this. The biggest of these powers were that the Supreme Court is now able to exercise judicial review and deem an act of congress or the president unconstitutional, or outside the boundaries of the Constitution. “As such, the Supreme Court became in fact as well as in theory an equal partner in government, and it has played that role ever since.” (Urofsky 1). The Supreme Court was looked on by many as having little to no power, but after Marbury vs. Madison, the Supreme Court became the final arbiter of the Constitution and therefore became equally as powerful as the legislative and executive branches.

Before Marbury vs. Madison legislative acts were on equal footing with the Constitution as there was nobody to say otherwise. Until the Marbury vs. Madison case, the executive and legislative branches were able to write acts that gave them lifelong terms and limitless power, pretty much doing what Napoleon did in France around the same time period. The Constitution needs to be above any ordinary law as it is the framework of all of our ordinary laws. According to John Marshall’s Opinion, “The Constitution is either a superior paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and, like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it.” If the latter were true then Congress could alter the Constitution to give themselves limitless power, thankfully the former is what came out of Marbury vs. Madison.

Marbury vs. Madison happened because for one, the Federalist Party controlled the entire judiciary branch, and while the executive and legislative branches were being turned over to the Democratic-Republican Party, the Democratic-Republicans wanted all three branches. John Adams in last second attempt, appointed a slew of new judges. This put the federalist party in a even stronger hold of the Supreme Court and judicial branch as a whole. Thomas Jefferson tried his best to get rid of these new judges by never delivering their commissions. While in 1801 John Adams and the Federalist-controlled legislative branch put in a ton of Federalist judges. If the Supreme Court were like it is today, they would have prevented that law as it would have been unconstitutional.

Marbury vs. Madison is regarded as one of the most noteworthy cases ever to hit the Supreme Court. According to Marbury v. Madison, “A relatively minor lawsuit led to one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in American history, Marbury v. Madison laying the foundation of the Court’s ability to render decisions about laws and actions.” This quote sums up exactly how important Marbury vs. Madison was to ensure that the there is and will be equal power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. We now view the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the Constitution and has the ability to not let the other two branches get unlimited power.

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Impact of Marbury and Madison on the Supreme Court. (2019, August 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
“Impact of Marbury and Madison on the Supreme Court.” GradesFixer, 28 Aug. 2019,
Impact of Marbury and Madison on the Supreme Court. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Mar. 2023].
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