Marbury V. Madison And Judicial Review

1022 words - 5 pages

The court case of Marbury v. Madison (1803) is credited and widely believed to be the creator of the “unprecedented” concept of Judicial Review. John Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice at the time, is lionized as a pioneer of Constitutional justice, but, in the past, was never really recognized as so. What needs to be clarified is that nothing in history is truly unprecedented, and Marbury v. Madison’s modern glorification is merely a product of years of disagreements on the validity of judicial review, fueled by court cases like Eakin v. Raub; John Marshall was also never really recognized in the past as the creator of judicial review, as shown in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford.
John Adams, the previous Federalist president, lost the Election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican. Before Jefferson took office, Adams decided to appoint as many Federalists into the Supreme court as he could, including William Marbury, all of whom needed to be commissioned in order to be officially sworn in. However, Jefferson took office before the commissions could be handed out, and he ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, to not deliver the commissions. Marbury proceeded to ask Marshall for a writ of mandamus (found in Section 13 of the Judiciary Act), forcing Madison to issue the commissions. This dispute between Marbury and Madison sparks the famous case. The dilemma here is the differences in interpretation. Some viewed Section 13 as unconstitutional, as it added power to the Judicial Branch, disrupting checks and balances. Others saw that “Marbury had been duly appointed…[and] the writ of mandamus [was] to be an appropriate legal remedy for resolving Marbury’s dilemma”(Clinton 86). Marshall wanted to issue the commissions to Marbury since he is a Federalist, but he is under the rule of Democratic-Republicans and does not want to seem like he is favoring the Federalists. Here is the contradiction to popular belief. Marshall was not a pioneer for the creation of fair and equal government, he was really trying to make a decision that would protect his position while pleasing both the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. This is most accurately described by Robert G. McCloskey: “ a mastery of indirection [is]…Marshall’s ability to sidestep danger while seeming to court it, to advance in one direction while his opponents are looking another”(Clinton 6). Marshall’s actions were fueled by political concerns, not legal.
If Marshall’s actions were iconic, then after the Marbury v. Madison case, he would have been credited with the creation of judicial review. In reality, Marshall’s decision of allowing the courts to review the decisions of the legislative and executive branches was seen “as only a step in the continuous clarification of the theory of judicial function”(Clinton 117). So this supposed creator of a pivotal Judicial component was only seen as a stepping stone. Through the remainder of Marshall’s career as Chief...

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