Powers of the Supreme Court

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In the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson defeated the incumbent president, John Adams, a Federalist. Before John Adams left office, he appointed judges and justices of the peace for the District of Columbia who also were Federalists. All of the appointments for the new judges and justices of the peace were approved during a mass Senate hearing. However, four of the justices of the peace did not receive their commissions before John Adams’ presidency was over. One of these justices of the peace, William Marbury, petitioned the Supreme Court to force James Madison, the new secretary of state under Jefferson, to deliver his commission. Marbury cited the Judiciary Act of 1789 which gave the Supreme Court the power to take such an action. In the end, Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court declared that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional and then denied Marbury’s petition.

This decision was the first time in history that the Supreme Court deemed a legislative act to be unconstitutional. As a direct result of the case, the concept of judicial review was established and the checks and balances of the U.S. government were further defined.

There are a number of Supreme Court cases that have significantly impacted law and public policy. As you progress through the course, you will review many of these cases. For this Discussion, you are asked to consider the significance of the Marbury v. Madison case.

To prepare for this Discussion:

Consider the power of the Supreme Court.

Review the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison. Consider the significance of this case in terms of Supreme Court powers.

Consider why Marbury v. Madison is a landmark decision in terms of the duties and powers of the Supreme Court.

Identify and review a case decided by the Supreme Court in which the Marbury v. Madison decision is significant.

Consider whether the Marbury v. Madison decision had a significant impact on the outcomes of the case you reviewed.

With these thoughts in mind:

Provide an explanation of why the Marbury v. Madison case is a landmark decision, supporting your explanation with references to the literature. Then, briefly describe the Supreme Court case you reviewed and apply the significance of the Marbury v. Madison decision to the rulings of the case you selected. Be specific.

Support your response using the Learning Resources and other scholarly resources.



  • Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803).

    Use the LexisNexis Academic database, and search using the citation number on the Federal & State Cases page of the Legal tab.

    Note: A case’s citation number can be found after the name of the case in the case’s full citation (e.g., 5 U.S. 137 is the citation number for the Marbury v. Madison court case in the above citation).


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