Welcome to the first of the new 15-part mini series where we examine College Board's list of the supposed 15 most important SCOTUS cases in US History!
Our SCOTUS case for this week is... Marbury V. Madison!!!
Background: Marbury V. Madison was actually started over a feud between two cousins... John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson. These two cousins were feuding for a couple reasons, one being that they were political rivals, and the other being some interesting romantic controversy. Now, Marshall served as Secretary of State under John Adams, who was giving up the presidential office to Jefferson in the election of 1800. Them being upset that they were turning the office over to the opposite political party tried to do some tricky maneuvering in a place they thought no one would notice, The Supreme Court! And you may be thinking, how would nobody notice this? The Supreme Court is a really big deal? Well, not at the time. The Supreme Court in 1800 met in a musty basement beneath the Congress building, and was never given very much power to do anything. Their main job was to travel to different states to solve average legal disputes. This being said, Adams and Marshall wanted to maintain power in some part of the government, so they appointed 40 new Supreme Court judges, yes 40!!! At this time, some of the commission letters went unsent, but nobody seemed to worried about it. So, when Jefferson and his new Secretary of State, James Madison, found out about the new 40 judges, they were outraged! Until they found these unsent commission letters and were able to get rid of a good amount of them. Now, there was one judge who decided to argue and took James Madison to court, William Marbury.
Basic Overview of the Case: As one might imagine, this case of Marbury V. Madison was taken directly to the Supreme Court, and Marshall, being the new Chief Justice, decided with his court that Marbury deserved to win this case, but he knew that if the decision was made to favor Marbury, Jefferson would ignore the ruling and set the Supreme Court farther back from reaching power. That's right, the "Supreme" Court didn't even have enough power to rule on this case. So, Marshall told Jefferson that if the Supreme Court had the power, he would have won the case, but that his hand were tied. So, while writing his closing statements, looking to remedy the fact that the Supreme Court had no power, Marshall snuck in the phrase, "to say what the law is" and when Jefferson signed it, he granted the Supreme Court the power of Judicial Review, the power to determine cases as constitutional or unconstitutional.
How has US history been impacted by this case?: US History has been dramatically changed because of this case, we would not even be able to make this mini-series if this case had never occured! Marbury V. Madison really made the third branch of government a true and substantial branch, fulfilling important concepts like checks and balances. The Supreme Court is an essential part of our government and definitely needed that power to become what it is today.
Does this case deserve to be on this list?: 100% There is no doubt in my mind that Marbury V. Madison deserves to be on this list because without it the rest of the list wouldn't even exist.