Marbury v Madison Summary of Facts


Marbury v. Madison is a landmark United States Supreme Court case decided in 1803. Here is a summary of the facts of the case:

Appointment of William Marbury: 

In the final days of his presidency, outgoing President John Adams appointed several individuals, including William Marbury, as justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. These appointments were made under the authority of the Judiciary Act of 1801.

Failure to deliver commissions: 

However, the newly appointed Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to deliver the commissions to the appointees, including Marbury. Madison argued that the new President, Thomas Jefferson, had ordered him not to deliver them.

Lawsuit filed by Marbury: 

Feeling aggrieved by the denial of his commission, Marbury filed a lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court, seeking a writ of mandamus—an order requiring Madison to deliver the commission.

Jurisdictional issue: 

The Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, had to address a crucial jurisdictional issue. The Judiciary Act of 1789 had expanded the Court's original jurisdiction, allowing it to issue writs of mandamus. However, this provision of the Judiciary Act conflicted with the Constitution, which established the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction and outlined its powers.

Supreme Court's decision: 

In its decision, the Court first declared that Marbury had a right to his commission and that withholding it was unlawful. However, Chief Justice Marshall held that the provision in the Judiciary Act of 1789 that expanded the Court's original jurisdiction was unconstitutional.

Establishment of judicial review: 

The most significant aspect of the Marbury v. Madison case was the Court's assertion of its power of judicial review. Chief Justice Marshall concluded that the Supreme Court had the authority to review acts of Congress and determine their constitutionality. He argued that it was the duty of the Court to interpret the Constitution and strike down any laws that were contrary to its provisions.


Ultimately, despite ruling in favor of Marbury, the Court held that it could not issue the writ of mandamus to compel Madison to deliver the commission because the specific provision of the Judiciary Act that authorized the Court's power to issue such writs was deemed unconstitutional.

The decision in Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review, which remains a crucial aspect of the American legal system. It affirmed the Supreme Court's role as the final arbiter of the Constitution's meaning and empowered the judiciary to strike down laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution.

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