Marbury v. Madison, case decided in 1803 by the U.S. Supreme Court. William Marbury had been commissioned justice of the peace in the District of Columbia by President John Adams in the "midnight appointments" at the very end of his administration. When the new administration did not deliver the commission, Marbury sued James Madison, Jefferson's Secretary of State. (At that time the Secretary of State was charged with certain domestic duties as well as with conducting foreign affairs.) Chief Justice John Marshall held that, although Marbury was entitled to the commission, the statute that was the basis of the particular remedy sought was unconstitutional because it gave the Supreme Court authority that was implicitly denied it by Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution. The decision was the first by the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional and void an act passed by Congress that the Court considered in violation of the Constitution. The decision established the doctrine of judicial review, which recognizes the authority of courts to declare statutes unconstitutional.
See R. L. Clinton, Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.