The notion of judicial review was created in the United States Supreme Court decision Marbury v. Madison (1803), which established the ability of federal courts to find legislative and executive acts illegal. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the unanimous decision. It is considered the first true test of our nation's highest court.
The judgment of the Court was that the entire act of Congress under which the Secretary of State had issued the commission was invalid because it violated a clause in the Constitution prohibiting legislators from receiving compensation other than that prescribed by law. The Court ordered the secretary to cancel the commission issued to Marbury.
This was a major victory for constitutional government over royal power. The Framers of the Constitution believed that no man is immune from public scrutiny or investigation, and that no person should be able to influence judges without fear of retribution. They gave the right to petition the government for grievances directly to the people through their elected representatives, so that those members could make informed decisions about what kind of government would be best for themselves and their families.
Marbury v. Madison is also important for its treatment of executive actions. This means that if the president cannot issue an executive order, then he is unable to perform his duties.
Marbury v. Madison The 1803 case in which Chief Justice John Marshall and his colleagues first claimed the Supreme Court's authority to interpret the United States Constitution. The judgment established the Court's judicial review authority over acts of Congress (the Judiciary Act of 1789).
The case involved a suit brought by William Marbury, an American attorney, against James Madison, then president of the United States. Marbury had been appointed a justice of the peace for the District of Columbia but had not been paid. He therefore sought a writ of mandamus from the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia requiring President Madison to pay him. The court issued the writ, and Marbury began proceedings to have it executed.
In response, Madison asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition preventing the lower court from proceeding further. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and issued the writ, thereby preventing the lower court from executing its own judgment.
The importance of this case cannot be overstated. It is one of only a few cases in which the Supreme Court has issued an order directing the government to act in accordance with the Court's interpretation of the Constitution.
This case also marks the beginning of the modern Supreme Court. Prior to this decision, courts were not given power to tell Congress what laws it could pass or executive officers such as presidents how to execute the law.
Marbury v. Madison, possibly the most significant decision in Supreme Court history, was the first to apply the notion of "judicial review"—the ability of federal courts to overturn actions of Congress that violate the Constitution. The case arose out of a dispute between John Marshall and James Madison over who should sit on the new court. In what has come to be known as the "marble seat incident," Marshall refused to take action against President Adams's appointment of William Johnson as secretary of state, even though he believed that the position belonged to him by right of nomination. When Congress passed a law making Johnson's appointment official, Marshall ordered the law executed. This caused a major political fight, with Democrats calling for Marshall's impeachment for exercising powers not given to him by law and Republicans arguing that Congress had the power to define its own officers. In the end, Congress removed Marshall from office, but the following year appointed him chief justice of the court.
In his opinion in the case, Marshall articulated what is now called the "separation of powers" principle: that it is the duty of the judicial branch to check any attempt by one of the other branches to exceed its authority. He also made the idea of judicial review clear when he wrote, "Let the judiciary be independent or let it be destroyed."
The Supreme Court's decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, introduced the notion of judicial review and increased the judicial branch's function. This case put the Judicial Branch on an equal footing with the Legislative and Executive departments of government. It is important to note that although this case established a principle now known as "judicial review," the Court did not set forth any criteria by which it would judge whether Congress had violated its constitutional powers. Rather, the Court simply declared that if Congress was acting within its authority when it passed a law, then the law was valid regardless of how unconstitutional it might be.
In other words, the Judiciary became responsible for protecting citizens from their own government when it acted outside of its authority. This responsibility has always existed within the structure of our government, but Marbury v. Madison is considered the first true statement of it.
Furthermore, because the Judicial Branch is able to protect citizens from their government, it gives rise to the concept of separation of powers. By ensuring that each branch of government stay out of the other's area of jurisdiction, we are able to have fair and balanced governments where none of them can overpower the others.
In conclusion, Marbury v. Madison strengthened the national government by giving it a power equal to that of the other two branches.
Marbury v. Madison enhanced the federal judiciary by granting it the power of judicial review, which allowed federal courts to declare legislation, as well as executive and administrative actions, to be inconsistent with the United States Constitution ("unconstitutional") and so null and invalid. Previously, only Congress could "revise" its mistakes by passing new laws; now the courts could do so too.
The decision also strengthened the federal government by giving it a stronger voice in states' affairs. Before this decision, the federal government was limited to enforcing agreements or treaties made by the national government with other nations or submitting questions about what role it should play in state affairs to the states via the Tenth Amendment. The court ruled that since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, any action by any branch of the federal government that violates it can be challenged in court and overturned. This includes actions taken by presidents that are not consistent with their own powers under the Constitution (e.g., issuing orders beyond their authority) or those taken by Congress without complying with the Constitution's procedures for enacting laws (e.g., ignoring the necessary debate between bills proposed and amendments made to them).
In addition to these effects on federal-state relations, Marbury v. Madison also strengthened the federal government by limiting the ability of judges to create law.