Marbury v Madison
CAUSE OF ACTION: Writ of Mandamus
FACTS: Marbury was appointed a justice of the peace in D.C. by Pres. Adams. The new Secretary of State, (under President Jefferson), Madison was supposed to issue the commission to Marbury, but Madision refused. (Madison wanted his President, Jefferson, to be able to give the job to someone else), Marbury is suing to force Madision to do his duty and issue the commission. Suing to force a government official to do his duty is called filing a Writ of Mandamus.
Congress passed a law (Judiciary Act of 1789), saying that the Supreme Court could issue mandamus against federal officers.
ISSUES: Does Jefferson's man Madison have to do something that the former President ordered? Adams made Marbury a justice of the peace, but Adams lost the election. Can Madison decide to deny Marbury the job so that the new President can give it to someone else? Can the supreme court force Madison?
Holding: no the Supreme Court cannot force Madision
Rule: The law passed by Congress "judiciary Act of 1789" which increased the power of the Supreme Court by giving the court mandamus power was in violation of the Constitution. Congress cannot give new jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, so the law is unconstitution and the Supreme Court does not have the power to force Madison to sign Marbury's commission.
The Supreme Court has the power to declare laws unconstitutional
Reasoning: the Constitution has no meaning if Congress can change it. It is the role of the judicial branch of government to say what the law is and the highest court (Supreme Court) defines what the highest law (Constitution), is.
This is a complicated one because Marshall, the chief justice, made up the concept of judicial review (the Supremes can declare Congressional acts unconstitutional), in order to avoid embarassing Jefferson who had put Marshall on the court.