Saturday, December 7, 2013

Marbury v. Madison case brief

Marbury v. Madison case brief summary
5 U.S. (Cranch 1) 137 (1803)

At a prior term, the Court granted an applicant a rule directing the Secretary of State of the United States to show cause why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to deliver to the applicant his commission as a justice of the peace. No cause was shown, so the applicant moved for a mandamus.

The applicant and two others contended that the late President of the United States had nominated them to the Senate and that the Senate had advised and consented to their appointments as justices of the peace. The commissions were signed by the late President and the seal of the United States was affixed to the commissions by the Secretary of State. The commissions were withheld from the applicants and they requested their delivery.

  • The Court granted a rule to show cause, requiring the Secretary to show cause why a mandamus should not issue to direct him to deliver to the commissions. 
  • No cause was shown and the applicant filed a motion for a mandamus. 
  • The Court determined that the applicant had a vested legal right in his appointment because his commission had been signed by the President, sealed by the Secretary of State, and the appointment was not revocable. 
  • The Court found that because the applicant had a legal title to the office, the laws afforded him a remedy. 
  • However, the Court held that § 13 of the Act of 1789, giving the Court authority to issue writs of mandamus to an officer, was contrary to the Constitution as an act of original jurisdiction, and therefore void.
The rule was discharged.

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1 comment:

  1. Marbury vs. Madison

    Facts: Marbury (P) and others were appointed justices of the peace for the District of Columbia by President Adams and confirmed by the Senate on Adam’s last day in office. Their formal commissions were signed but not delivered. Madison (D), as Secretary of State, was directed by the new President (Jefferson) to withhold Marbury’s commission. Marbury brought a writ of mandamus directly to the Supreme Court under the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established United States courts and authorized the Supreme Court to issue writes of mandamus to public officers.

    Issue: Is the Supreme Court empowered to review acts of Congress and void those that it finds to be repugnant to the Constitution?

    Held: Yes. Marbury’s action is discharged because the Court does not have original jurisdiction; section 13 of the Judiciary Act is unconstitutional.
    · The facts demonstrate a plain case for mandamus action, and under the Judiciary Act this Court could so act.
    · Marbury claims that since the constitutional grant of jurisdiction is general and the clause assigning original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court (Article III, Section 2, Clause 2) contains no negative or restrictive words, the legislature may assign original jurisdiction to this Court in addition to that specified in the Constitution. But the clause specifies in what cases this Court is to have original jurisdiction, and that in all other cases its jurisdiction is appellate. Marbury’s contention would render the clause ineffectual, an inadmissible construction. Therefore, the Judiciary Act’s grant of original mandamus jurisdiction is unconstitutional and void.
    · The grant of judicial power extends to all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Since the Constitution is superior to any ordinary legislative act, it must govern in a case to which both apply.
    · The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Section 2) declares that the Constitution and those acts of Congress made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land. Thus, the Court must determine when such acts are actually made in pursuance of the Constitution. The power of judicial review is implicit in the Constitution.


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