A few weeks before Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as the 3rd President of the United States, the Federalist Congress came up with 16 new circuit judgeships and more judgeships (Organic Act) with which Adams went on to fill the Federalists in a bid to have control over his party’s control of the judiciary and to frustrate the legislative agendas of the new President Thomas Jefferson, together with his party the Democratic-Republican party (Clinton, 1991). Taking into consideration that he was the last of the “Midnight Appointments,” William Marbury did not receive his commission before Thomas Jefferson became the President (Vile, 2012). When Thomas Jefferson became the president, he instructed James Madison (Secretary of State) to issue a writ of mandamus to compel James Madison to be able to act (Strauss, 2018).
Marbury who had a good legal team comprised of former attorney general Charles Lee argued that sealing the commission was an act of fully completing the transaction which means the delivery in any form of the event was just but mere formality (Shehu, 2017). Looking at the situation from a legal/constitutional point of view, it is clear that Marbury could not enter into any form that could grant him the duties of the office without the actual piece of parchment whether it’s just a formality or not (Nelson, 2018). Despite Thomas Jefferson’s objection to the issue, the court decided to hear the case which is famously known as Marbury v. Madison.
Most scholars argue that Marshall should not have been in the case taking into consideration that he was a former Secretary of State. The current judicial standards would have called for recusal (Clinton, 1991). At that time, when only financial connections would have led to a judge to step aside (Sloan, 2009). This case was the beginning of the discussion of Separation of Powers, and the Checks and Balances of the judiciary and other branches of government (Strauss, 2018).
The Supreme Court’s Power of Judicial Review
All the best-known power of the Supreme Court lies in its ability to declare a Legislative or Executive Act that violates the constitution (Smith, 1989). This is what is famously known as judicial review and is not found in the text of the constitution itself (Vile, 2012). This doctrine was established in the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803 (Santos, 2018). The court had to determine whether the constitution or act of Congress was the supreme law of a specific jurisdiction (Smith, 1989).
The Judiciary Act of 1789 was able to give the court original jurisdiction with which they could issue legal orders that compels government officials and leaders to act by a specific law that has been set (Shehu, 2017). Subsequently, a legal suit was brought against this act, but the court categorically stated that the court did not have the jurisdiction whatsoever to handle the matter since Article VI of the United States Constitution established the constitution itself as the supreme law of the land. That meant that the court held that the Act of Congress is in opposition to the constitution which in this case is the supreme law of the land (Clinton, 1991). In the follow up of other cases, the courts struck down all state laws that were considered to violate the Constitution. Before the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights was only applied with the Federal government and after the amendment, the courts started ruling most laws following other states (Smith, 1989).
After all this, it was clear proof of the separation of powers. The courts were sending a clear message on what they can exercise and what the executive and the legislature could (Sloan, 2009). The Supreme Court was defining the powers of every branch of the government by interpretation of the constitution (Nelson, 2018). This also meant that the court had the final verdict on when a right is being protected by the constitution or whether the constitutional right is being violated (Shehu, 2017). This was the beginning of the separation of powers discussion in the United States that led to enormous laws and amendments to the constitution that we have today (Sloan, 2009).