February 24 - 1803 - Marbury v. Madison is Decided

Strictly speaking, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether William Marbury should be seated as a Justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia by the Jefferson administration and specifically Secretary of State James Madison, who refused to recognize the appointment as it came from the previous Adams administration. More importantly, though, the decision in Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review, the power of the Judicial Branch to declare laws and executive actions unconstitutional. Arguably, Chief Justice John Marshall should have recused himself, as he was the Secretary of State when Marbury was appointed. Yet Marshall sought to make sure the Supreme Court and the entire judicial system was a coequal branch of the government, something the Consitution did not make entirely clear. So even though the decision in Marbury v. Madison said Madison should seat Marbury to his appointment but that the Supreme Court could do nothing to force him to do so, the decision still had long lasting ramifications for the American government.

William Floyd