Marbury v. Madison
The case between Marbury and Madison in United States was a crucial landmark in which the Supreme Court established the background of the concept of judicial review. In addition, the case decision helped to develop the principle of separation of powers between the Judiciary, Executive and Congress (Gözler, 2008). William Marbury was an appointee in the Justice of the Peace in District of Columbia. He was appointed by President John Adams under the Organic act after the president lost in general elections to President Jefferson. The Congress had passed several laws establishing several new judicial offices (Mountjoy, 2007). The appointments were done in the last day of President Adams in office. The new judicial positions were created in attempts to control the federal judiciary prior to president Thomas Jefferson was sworn in. The judicial commissions were signed by John Marshall who was acting Secretary of State (who later became the Chief Justice) before the president vacated office. However, the commissions were not delivered before the vacation of office of Adams (Gözler, 2008). When President Jefferson took over office, he refused to honour the commissions arguing that they were invalid since they were not delivered before the expiration of Adam’s term as president (Mountjoy, 2007). Therefore, Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, Madison not to deliver the commissions. This prompted William Marbury to file a case in Supreme Court of United States for writ of mandamus with the aim to compel James Madison the Secretary of state of United State to deliver justice of peace commission.
William Marbury, Robert Townsend, Ramsay Dennis and Harpe William filed their lawsuit in the Supreme Court at the December term of 1801 (Gözler, 2008). They presented the issue against secretary of state James Madison to show why a mandamus should not be issued. They wanted to obtain the court order that would compel Madison to deliver the commission to them as justices of the peace in Washington District of Colombia.
The Supreme Court compelled Madison to reply but he refused. The court then deliberated whether it should give Marbury the demanded writ of mandamus (Gözler, 2008). Writ of mandamus was a legal provision under Judiciary Act of 1789 that was directed towards public officers who failed to fulfil the appropriate legal duty.
The facts of the case
The case was supported by the following facts, first, is that Marbury had served Madison with notice of their case (Mountjoy, 2007). Secondly, the former president of United States, Mr Adams nominated the applicants to the legislature (senate) for guidance. In addition, they consented to be appointed justices of the peace of the county of Washington in District of Columbia. Thirdly, the senate advised and approved nominations.
Fourth, in due form the commissions were signed by President Adams assigning him as justice of the peace. Fifth, he explained that he had requested the secretary of state Madison to allow him to take office in the said commissions (Gözler, 2008). Similarly, they stated that Madison had refused to deliver his request hence he had withheld his commissions after they made formal application for information whether the commissions were signed and sealed in the office of secretary of state.
Sixth, he stated that he had not received any answer to their inquiry from either the officer in the department of state or Secretary of State. Seventh, he made application to the secretary of senate for the applicant’s certificate of nomination, the consent and advice of Senate but the secretary of senate declined to give that certificate (Gözler, 2008). Clerks in the department of state were served with ruling demanding that they should testify in this case. However, the clerks refused to be sworn arguing that the positions they held in the department of state were not bound to disclose any facts concerning to transactions or business of the office.
However, the court ruled that the witnesses to be sworn and their testimonies were taken in writing (Mountjoy, 2007). Moreover, they were given the right to remain silent or to object to any question which they were not able of answering.
Summary of the case
The chief justice delivered the ruling of the Supreme Court where the judges granted the Marbury his request (Mountjoy, 2007). The ruling required the secretary of state to show why a mandamus should not be issued compelling him to deliver to William Marbury his commission as justice of the peace of Washington in the district of Colombia.
The applicant had the right to lead the commission under the act of congress which was passed in 1801. The act gave the president the powers to appoint the justices of peace for a period of five years (Gözler, 2008). The president fulfilled his mandate in compliance with the act but the commission never reached the intended person. Therefore the Mr Marbury had the right to commission and refusal to deliver the commission to him was a gross violation of his right for which the nation’s law affords him a remedy.
Conclusion of the case outcome
In the ruling read by chief justice Marshall the court noted that President Jefferson through his Secretary of state Madison was wrong in denying Marbury his constitutional right to assume office as justice of the peace for Washington County in the district of Colombia (Mountjoy, 2007).
Nevertheless the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction of the case therefore it could not compel president Jefferson and Madison his secretary of state to allow Marbury to take office as justice of peace in district of Colombia (Gözler, 2008). In addition, the Chief Justice ruled that the judiciary act of 1789 empowered the court the jurisdiction but the act was unconstitutional since it conflicted with article III, clause 2 of the constitution.
Moreover, the chief justice noted that the acts of congress that conflicted with the constitution were null and void hence they were not binding to the courts and judiciary first role was to protect and uphold the constitution (Gözler, 2008). Marshall noted that when two or more laws conflict with the constitution the court bears the responsibility to determine which legislation applies at a particular situation. Therefore, Marbury never took office as the justice of peace in District of Columbia. In 1802, the congress repealed the judiciary act of hence eliminating the positions of justice of peace
Concept of Judicial review
The Supreme Court unanimously decided not to require Madison to deliver the commission to Marbury (Mountjoy, 2007). The Court ruled that the secretary of state was entitled to his commission but the constitution did not provide for power to compel Madison to deliver the commission to Marbury in the case. Therefore the judgement that was read by chief justice Marshall struck a middle ground between these alternatives in their opinion.
The Supreme Court judges noted that the Judiciary act of 1789 collided with the U.S Constitution because the act gave the Supreme Court more powers than it was given in the supreme law (constitution). Moreover, the conflict exposed the differences between the appellate jurisdiction and Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction (Gözler, 2008). If the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over the case, hence the case could be decided for the first time by the judges in the Supreme Court.
However, if the Court had the appellate jurisdiction, the case could have been decided by the judges in the lower courts. Only then can the involved parties file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Then the judges would decide if the ruling of the judges in the lower courts were correct or not (Gözler, 2008). Marbury filed his suit in the Supreme Court hence the lawsuit was under the court’s original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court judges ruled that the court was not best suited to issue the writ of mandamus in this case.
Additionally, the Judiciary Act of 1789 provided that the Supreme Court can issue “writs of mandamus” to any individual holding public office in the United State government (Gözler, 2008). A writ of mandamus is a direction or command by a superior court or a lower court to a person holding government office to execute a particular task.
The Chief Justice Marshall noted that this law allowed the court to issue a writ of mandamus to secretary of state Madison according to the exercise of original jurisdiction (Gözler, 2008). Nonetheless, Justice Marshall noted that article III, section 2, clause 2 of the United States constitution empowers the Supreme Court to exercise the original jurisdiction only in lawsuits concerning public consuls and ministers, ambassadors, and in other cases which the state shall be party.
Therefore, their decisions suggested that they had no original jurisdiction to exercise the writ of mandamus (Mountjoy, 2007). The constitution further demanded that in all these cases the Supreme Court should have the appellate jurisdictions (Gözler, 2008). The case between Marbury and Madison did not involve ambassadors, consuls, public ministers or state hence the Supreme Court did not have the original jurisdiction to issue the writ of mandamus. Furthermore, the court ruling noted that the U.S constitution and Judicial Act of 1789 were in conflict with each other.
The court acted in the right manner because the constitution is the supreme and paramount law in the country. This case involved the conflict between the ordinary law and the constitution hence the constitution provisions were upheld in such a case (Gözler, 2008). In addition, the judges were responsible for interpreting the law and to identify when they interfere or conflict with the constitution. According to the ruling of the Chief Justice John Marshall, the U.S constitution mandated the judicial arm of government to strike down laws that are passed by the legislature in case they contravene with the constitution. This is the principle of judicial review (Mountjoy, 2007). Therefore, since Marbury v. Madison case decision, it has been recognised that it is the responsibility of the judicial arm of government to interpret and review law that contradict the constitution.
Therefore, Chief Justice Marshall established a balance of power between the legislatures, executive and judicial arms of governments within the three branches of government (Gözler, 2008). When chief justice and other members of juror panel refused to demand President Jefferson and Madison to deliver the commission to Marbury, they did not give the secretary of state an opportunity to disobey the court ruling. Therefore, their decision helped to protect the image of the judicially because it would have appeared weak over the executive (Mountjoy, 2007). However, the chief justice explained that the United State constitution is the paramount and supreme law of the county and established that the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to interpret the constitution.
Therefore the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Marshal confirmed the legal principle of judicial review (Mountjoy, 2007). This is because the U.S constitution established authority to judicial branches of government to limit the powers of the congress by ruling against legislations that conflicts and contravene the supreme law – the constitution in the country.
Interpretation of Jefferson statement that it is dangerous to assign the judges responsibilities as the ultimate authority in all constitutional questions
President considered federal judiciary unfit to rule on all the cases regarding all issues of Federal or State government. His statement indicated that he was concerned about the dangers posed by federal judiciary since it had absolute power (Mountjoy, 2007). He believed that the federal courts could act in an oppressive and cruel manner when delivering judgement. In addition, his statement reflects the concern that judges held office for life and they were not responsible as other branches of governments were to the elective control.
Besides, his statement noted that the constitution at that particular time did not provide for establishment of tribunal against the judges in case they violated their constitutional mandate (Mountjoy, 2007). Therefore, he suggested that judges were not fit to hear cases involving corruption of parties since many judges were involved in corruption and other malpractices (Gözler, 2008). His statement indicates that Jefferson was against the judicial supremacy because the federal judges had no checks on their conduct hence could not uphold the spirit of the constitution. Therefore, he thought that federal judiciary was out of control in his days therefore requires more constitutional restrictions.
I believe that Chief justice Marshall claim of power of judicial review did not constitute a usurpation of power. This is because the structure of government needs a system of checks and balances (Gözler, 2008). The acts of legislature are designed and enacted in the congress, while the president was involved in assenting them before they become law. Therefore, the judiciary acted in the right manner to determine whether legislation set in congress are constitutional (Mountjoy, 2007). In addition, it was the first responsibility of judiciary to uphold the constitution, hence judicial review does not constitute usurpation of powers of either the congress or executive arms of government.
In Marbury and Madison case the court acted to establish and improve the system of checks and balances that exists among the two branches of government. This is because the court established the principle of judicial review that is important addition in the systems of checks and balances (Gözler, 2008). These systems are established to prevent one arm of Federal government to be more superior to the other two (Mountjoy, 2007). Justice Marshall in his written statement declared the laws passed by congress and assented by the president as unconstitutional for the first time in history of United State.
This statement also indicates that the judiciary should have responsibilities that are equal to other two arms of government (Mountjoy, 2007). Moreover, the Supreme Court should have powers to invalidate state and federal laws that are contrary to the supreme law of the land. It is emphatically the responsibility of the judiciary to review the acts of legislature and determine whether they are unconstitutional hence void (Gözler, 2008). The judiciary must also interpret and expound on two rules that conflict each other. In such circumstances the court should make decision where each of these rules are applicable and where they are not applicable. In case any law conflict the constitution, the constitution is superior to any other act of legislature.
Gözler, K. (2008). Judicial review of constitutional amendments (1st ed.). Bursa: Ekin.
Mountjoy, S. (2007). Marbury v. Madison (1st ed.). New York: Chelsea House.