Marbury v. Madison

Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in the presidential election of 1800. Before he left office, Adams appointed as many Federalist judges as he could before Jefferson took over as president. The Judiciary Act of 1801 had been passed so Adams could do this. Adams was a Federalist. Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican. These last-minutes appointmeants meant that Jefferson would have to deal with Federalist judges, whom he often disagreed with.

Before he left office in 1801, Adams also appointed a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He chose Federalist, John Marshall. Under the Marshall court, federal authority was strengthened as well as the federal courts. One of the most important decisions of the Marshall court was Marbury v. Madison in 1803.

William Marbury was one of the last appointments that President Adams made before he left office. He named Marbury the justice of the peace for the District of Columbia.

Marbury was supposed to be installed in his position by Secretary of State James Madison. Madison was told by new president Thomas Jefferson not to install Marbury in his new job. Marbury sued. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the Judiciary Act 1801 was unconstitutional. This means that the Supreme Court said that the law went against the Constitution, and therefore was no longer a law.

This ruling established the principle of judicial review. This principle states that the Supreme Court has the final say in interpreting the Constitution. In other words, when the Supreme Court rules, their decision is final. By establishing judicial review, Marshall helped to create a lasting balance among the three branches of government.