The Analysis of Marbury versus Madison Case for Legal Reflection.
The US Constitution has created the three branches of government, namely the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. The Constitution has installed checks and balances that prohibit a single branch from dominating the other two. The fundamental question is who will decide whether a law is constitutional or not. The paper reflects on the discussion of legal constitutionality concerning the Marbury versus Madison case of 1803.
What is the power of judicial review?
The power of judicial review is the power (TheLawChannel, 2010) exercised by the state-federal courts and the US Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of a particular law.
Two eminent statesmen Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall had conflicting views on the point. Thomas Jefferson believed that the voice of the people was supreme. (TheLawChannel, 2010). He wanted the elected representatives of the people, that is, the Congress, to decide whether a particular law is constitutional or violates any provisions of the Constitution. On the other hand, John Marshall believed that the Constitution itself intended the federal judiciary
(TheLawChannel, 2010) to make decisions regarding the interpretation of the Constitution because judges enjoy a lifetime appointment and are above politics and party strife.
The question found resolution in the Marbury versus Madison case of 1803. Chief Justice John Marshall gave the verdict that it is the constitutional duty of the Supreme Court to decide if and when the political branches of government, namely the legislative and executive exceed their constitutional bounds. (TheLawChannel, 2010).
The verdict in the Marbury versus Madison case firmly established the principle and usage of the power of judicial review. The judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution. (TheLawChannel, 2010). It interprets the Constitution and protects the violation of the rights and liberties of the people of the United States. The courts’ power to review the constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress keeps the legislature in restraint. Congress cannot enact such laws which are against the Constitution. The power of judicial review is of paramount significance in the efficient and effective working of the US democracy.
What is the impact of Marbury versus Madison on judicial review?
The Marbury versus Madison case is very significant in formally establishing the principle of judicial review. The then-President Thomas Jefferson opined that the elected representatives must enjoy a final power regarding the interpretation of the Constitution. However, in Marbury versus Madison case, the judgment of Chief Justice John Marshall (Ray, 2016) proved a landmark judgment in establishing the independence and supremacy of the judiciary regarding the interpretation of the Constitution.
The Marbury versus Madison case involved four men, namely Mr. Marbury, Mr. Ramsay, Mr. Harper, and Mr. Howe. These four men had not received their Commission for the justice of the peace for the District of Columbia from the then Secretary of State, Mr. Madison. The Commission had been prepared and signed by President John Adams in his last days of duty. Withholding of the Commission signed and affirmed by Congress is a violation of the Constitution. The four men challenged the then Secretary of State Madison, and the case is known as Marbury versus Madison 1803.
The case had a profound impact (TheLawChannel, 2010) on the courts’ power of judicial review. In this case, Marbury and his companions did not receive their Commission. However, through the case justice, John Marshall established the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution. For the first time, the judge declared an act of the Congress signed by the President as unconstitutional.
The principle of judicial review was not new to the American judicial system. At state levels, there had been instances of judicial review, but the Marbury versus Madison case established the right of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. However, in the judgment Marbury versus Madison case judgment, Judge John Marshall extended the principle of judicial review to the US Supreme Court. The judgment stressed (TheLawChannel, 2010) the need to limit governmental powers through constitutional instruments. The ruling stated that it is the constitutional duty of the Supreme Court to ensure that the political branches of the government function within the framework specified by the Constitution.
Who are the main characters in the landmark case?
The two main parties in the case include Mr. Marbury and his companions, namely Mr. Ramsay, Mr. Harper, and Mr. Howe, and Mr. Madison, the Secretary of State in Thomas Jefferson’s administration. The two parties represent the case on a superficial level. The primary debate and argument are between Congress and the judiciary.
Thomas Jefferson, then president, argued then elected representatives that is Congress enjoys absolute power to interpret the Constitution. However, Chief Justice John Marshall, through his landmark judgment in the Marbury versus Madison cases, established the independence and supremacy of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, in ensuring that political branches of the government work within the framework of the Constitution.
The Marbury versus Madison case demands a deep reflection (Nelson, 2002) and analysis. In the last days of his administration, President John Adams had signed the Commission for Mr. Marbury and his companions. However, the Republican government of Thomas Jefferson withheld the delivery of the Commission for political reasons. The case is crucial because it involves a vital constitutional question. The question is ‘who is to say what the Constitution means.’ (TheLawChannel, 2010).
President Jefferson disagreed with John Marshall. Jefferson felt why the Supreme Court should enjoy the final say in constitutional matters. Justice Marshall answered that the principle of equality allows each branch to decide only the assigned duties within the constitutional framework. However, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution. Justice Marshall, in his judgment, resolved a significant political issue.
Justice Marshall, in his judgment, resolved a significant political issue. President Jefferson disagreed with John Marshall. Jefferson felt why the Supreme Court should enjoy the final say in constitutional matters. Justice Marshall answered that the principle of equality provides for each branch to decide only for itself the assigned duties within the constitutional framework. However, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution.
Justice Marshall’s judgment in Marbury versus Madison case established the principle that the Supreme Court has the power to declare as unconstitutional an act of the Congress passed by the President. The case is significant not for the parties but very significant for the United States. It establishes the supremacy of the Constitution as a final political document and the unequivocal role of the judiciary as the interpreter of the Constitution.
The ever-evolving nature of the US Democracy needs an Independent judiciary empowered with the power of judicial review to ensure smooth democratic processes. A free, fair and fearless judiciary is the hallmark of democracy. It restrains Congress from passing laws that infringe upon individual liberties. The power of judicial review assists in checking the executive excesses. The Marbury versus Madison case and John Marshall’s landmark judgment firmly established the role and significance of the judiciary to interpret and safeguard the Constitution.
Nelson, W. E. (2002). Marbury v. Madison and the Establishment of Judicial Autonomy. Journal of Supreme Court History, 27(3), 240–256. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-5818.00046
Ray, C. (2016). John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and the Construction of Constitutional Legitimacy. Law, Culture and the Humanities, 15(1), 205–226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1743872116650867
TheLawChannel. (2010). Marbury v. Madison 1977 Judicial Conference of the United States [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXwTrArJ1zM