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Published by Geelyn Catindig

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Published by: Geelyn Catindig on Jul 10, 2013
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CATINDIG, Marie Evangeline N.I-O
Marbury vs Madison
case occurred during an era when the United States was still refining the balance of  power between the three branches of government, and trying to adjust to differences between Englishlaws and traditions followed in Colonial America and the new mandates established by the Constitutionof the United States. There was considerable political tension and disagreement between parties that haddifferent visions and strategies for how the government should be run.Prior to 1800, Federalist ideologies dominated government. Federalists like the first twoPresidents, George Washington and John Adams, favoured a stronger central government and rule by theelite. The anti-Federalists, which morphed into the Democratic-Republican party, had an opposite intent,favouring a less patriarchal government and placing more emphasis on the Bill of Rights and statesovereignty. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were early leaders of the anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican party. Presidential elections were somewhat different in the 18th century than they are today.At that time, the President and Vice-President were separately elected offices, both filled by men who hadcontended for the Presidency. The candidate who received the greatest number of votes became President,while the candidate with the second greatest number of votes became Vice-President. This lead tosituations where the President and Vice-President represented separate parties that were politically hostileto each other.John Adams, a Federalist, won the Presidential election in 1796. Thomas Jefferson, aDemocratic-Republic, won the Vice-Presidency. The Federalists controlled both the executive andlegislative branches at that time. By the next election, in 1800, Federalist policies had angered enough people that Adams lost the election badly. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democratic-Republicans, received an equal number of electoral votes, so the final decision as to who would assumewhich role fell to the House of Representatives. Jefferson, championed by a popular Alexander Hamilton,won the Presidency. With both Presidential and Vice-Presidential offices filled by Democratic-Republicans, as well as the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, the new administration portended a radical shift in the government's ideology.Before the new administration could take office, however, the Sixth Congress passed two piecesof legislation in early 1801 that expanded the federal court system. The first, The Judiciary Act of 1801,which passed February 13, 1801, reduced the size of the Supreme Court from 6 members to 5, byattrition, to impede Jefferson's ability to change the composition of the Court (which was entirelyFederalist at that time). It also relieved the Justices of their "circuit riding" responsibilities, reorganizingthe lower courts into six circuits, and creating positions for 16 new judges. The second piece of legislation, the Organic Act of 1801 which passed on February 27, 1801, is more directly relevant tothe
 Marbury v. Madison
case. The dispute revolved around justice of the peace appointments awardedunder the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, in which Congress formally incorporated landedceded to the federal government by Virginia and Maryland into the District of Columbia, dividing theterritory into two "cities": Alexandria, which operated under Virginia law; and Georgetown, whichoperated under Maryland law. This created a number of lower-level judicial including "...such number of discreet persons to be justices of the peace, as the President of the United States shall from time to timethink expedient."The out-going President, John Adams, in a desperate attempt to bolster Federalist influence,quickly appointed 42 members of his own party to the justice of the peace positions, and 16 Federalist judges to head the Circuit courts created by the new Judiciary Act of 1801 (passed on February 13, 1801).
These later became known as the "Midnight Judges," after the fact that they were nominated March 2, andconfirmed by the Senate on March 3, 1801, Adams' final day in office. William Marbury was one of themen appointed to a five-year term as justice of the peace in the newly created District of Columbia.
Background of 
Marbury v. Madiso
John Marshall, who was Secretary of State under Adams, was responsible for completingthe paperwork and delivering the official "commissions" to each of the newly appointed judges, but theadministration ended before he could undertake this task. Adams' justices of the peace were nominated onMarch 2, 1801, and confirmed by the Senate on March 3, 1801. Although Marshall worked late into thenight completing the registration of appointments and affixing the official Presidential seal, there was notime for Marshall to deliver the paperwork before he and Adams left office on March 4. Marshall,himself, had been newly confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but agreed to remain in officeas Secretary of State until the administration changed.When Thomas Jefferson was elected President in 1800, there were no members of his party in the federal judiciary (not surprising because the Democratic-Republican party had formed only recently from a groupformerly known as the Anti-federalists). In fact, virtually the entire judiciary, including every member of the Supreme Court, was Federalist, a legacy of both John Adams and George Washington. Jeffersondecided to take corrective measures. First, he allegedly reduced the number of justice of the peaceappointments from 42 to 30, ostensibly as a matter of economy. Of the remaining 30 appointments,Jefferson allowed 25 Federalist appointees to keep their positions, and nominated members of his own party to fill the remaining five slots. William Marbury, whom Adams had appointed justice of the peacefor the District of Columbia, was one of the 12 whose commissions were eliminated.Marbury filed suit against Secretary of State Madison, and petitioned the Supreme Court,now under the leadership of John Marshall, for a writ of mandamus, a court order requiring an official to perform - or refrain from performing - a specific duty for which he had responsibility. Marburyspecifically sought an order compelling Madison to deliver his commission. Marshall granted a preliminary motion asking Madison to "show cause" why the Court should not issue a writ of mandamus,which is standard procedure. This gives the person who would receive the writ an opportunity to presentvalid reasons for failing to take the action in question. Madison never responded, which was consideredan insult to the judiciary. Within weeks of the request, Congress, which was now controlled by theDemocratic-Republicans, repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801. This had two effects:1) It eliminated the new Circuit court realignment, dispatching all of Adams' Circuit judgesthrough legislation; and2) The controlling law once again became the Judiciary Act of 1789.In 1801, Congress changed the biannual Terms of the Court from February and August toJune and December. When the law was repealed, the Terms reverted to the original schedule. WhenCongress passed the Judiciary act of 1802, they decided to prevent the Supreme Court from intervening inthe impeachment process by suspending its next Term until February 1803, fourteen months after the lastsitting. Marbury's case, which was originally on the docket for the June 1802 Term, was therefore postponed until February 1803.The political nature of 
 Marbury v. Madison
became apparent when Marbury petitionedCongress for a copy of their minutes for the day he was confirmed, and was denied his request by theDemocratic-Republican-controlled Senate. Madison failed to appear in court on the day the trial began.US Attorney General Levi Lincoln, who would ordinarily have argued the case for Madison, appearedonly as a witness; a local attorney, Charles Lee, represented the petitioners. Jefferson did not provide
counsel to represent the defense. Lee argued that Marbury's commission was valid, and he had a right toreceive it. He also asserted that the Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the US Supreme Court original jurisdictionover the case. Levi Lincoln disagreed. This left the court to deliberate three issues:1.
Whether Marbury remained entitled to his job;2.
Whether the judicial system was the proper venue for contesting Madison's decision; and,3.
Whether the Supreme Court had the jurisdictional authority to force the Secretary of State to deliver thecommission.It also created a political dilemma for Marshall. If he ruled in Marbury's favor and issued a writ of mandamus, he could be almost certain Madison and Jefferson would refuse to comply. Since the Courthad no power to enforce its mandates, such action would weaken the Judicial branch of government andset a dangerous precedent. Opposing the popular Jefferson raised the potential of Congress impeachingMarshall. The House had already initiated proceedings against Justice Chase, and were using the power of impeachment to remove Federalist judges from courts across the country, in an effort to weaken the party. On the other hand, if the Court denied Marbury his writ, the justices would appear diffident andsubordinate to the Executive and Legislative branches, which would not only weaken the Judicial branch, but also undermine the rule of law.
Ruling in Marbury v. Madison
 Marshall considered these questions for ten days before arriving at a solution that would give partialvictories to both parties, while increasing the influence of the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision,the Court declared Marbury and the other plaintiffs were legally entitled to their commissions, but that thecourt lacked jurisdiction to issue the writ of mandamus. He also delivered a scathing criticism of Congress designed to assert the Court's authority over questions of constitutional law.Marshall wrote:
"Mr. Marbury . . . since his commission was signed by the president, and sealed by the secretary of state,was appointed. . . . To withhold the commission, therefore, is an act deemed by the court not warranted by law, but violative of a vested legal right." 
 Further, Marshall asserted, Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional becauseCongress had vested in the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over issues not specifically ordained bythe Constitution (the validity of this argument is debatable, but Jefferson had no motive to contestMarshall's reasoning, since the verdict supported his decision).
"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who

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