Supreme Court Major Cases

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John Scarr
Mr. Louis
Ap. Us pd. 7
10/30/12
Supreme Court
Marbury vs. Madison (1803):
On the final of his presidency, John Adams named forty-two justices of the peace and sixteen new circuit court justices for the District of Columbia with the “Midnight Appointments”. “The Midnight Appointments” were an attempt by the Federalists to take control of the federal judiciary prior to Thomas Jefferson taking office. The commissions were signed by President Adams and sealed by acting Secretary of State John Marshall (who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and author of this opinion), but they were not delivered before the termination of Adams’s presidency. Thomas Jefferson refused to honor the commissions, claiming that they were invalid because they had not been delivered by the end of Adams’s term. In the case of Marbury v Madison, the actual suit was William Marbury applying to the Supreme Court of the United States to compel James Madison, Jefferson’s Secretary of State, to deliver the commissions. The constitutional issue present in the case was whether or not the Supreme Court had the authority to review acts of Congress and determine whether or not they are unconstitutional, making them void. The other Constitutional issue in the case was whether or not Congress can expand the scope the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction beyond that which is defined in Article III of the Constitution. The court’s Ruling was actually somewhat mixed. The court ruled that Marbury did have right to the commissions because the order would go into effect when Adams signed the papers. This was so because he was still in power when he signed them. The also ruled that Congress did not have the power to expand the original jurisdiction of Supreme Court beyond that which is specified in Article III of the Constitution. Their reasoning behind this was that the Constitution states “the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party. In all other cases, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction.” They ruled that if the intention of was to leave it up to the discretion of the legislature to delegate the judicial powers between the Supreme and inferior courts in accordance with the will of said body, then the section was mere surplusage and devoid of meaning. If Congress remains at liberty to give this court appellate jurisdiction where the Constitution has declared their jurisdiction shall be original, and original jurisdiction where the Constitution has declared it shall be appellate, then the distribution of jurisdiction made in the Constitution, is form without substance. They also ruled that the Supreme Court did not have original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus. They ruled that in order to enable this court to issue a mandamus, it must be shown to be an exercise of appellate jurisdiction, or to be necessary to enable them to exercise appellate jurisdiction. The decision made by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803 was of considerable significance, not only in Marbury v. Madison, but for the future of the Supreme Court as well. Marshall gave future judges a federal judiciary that could stand equally beside the other two branches of government. However, one cannot ignore the fact that Marshall was a Federalist partisan who had a great interest in determining the outcome of the case. Despite the fact that Marshall may have not fully realized the potential of his decision, it must have occurred to him that the decision set forth a great precedent for the Supreme Court and forever strengthened the power of the judiciary. By the time he died in 1835, the federal judiciary had become a dynamic force in American government, due largely to John Marshall's efforts and achievements. One could make an argument for this being one the most significant cases in American Law.

Fletcher vs. Peck (1810):
In...
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