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SampleBriefMarburyv.Madison,5U.S.

137,1Cranch137(1803)

FACTS:WilliamMarburywasoneofPresidentAdamsmidnightappointments.Allofthenecessarypaperwork
andprocedureswerecompletedtosecurehisappointmentasajusticeofthepeaceforWashington,D.C.,but
SecretaryofStateJohnMarshallhimselfamidnightappointeetoasomewhatmoreexhaltedjudicialposition
failedtodeliverhiscommission.Uponassumingthepresidency,JeffersonorderedhisSecretaryofStateJames
Madisonnottodeliverthecommission.UnderauthorityoftheJudiciaryActof1789,Marburysuedtoaskthe
SupremeCourttoissueawritofmandamustoforceMadisontodeliverthecommission.

ISSUES:1)DoesMarburyhavearighttothiscommission?2)Ifhehasaright,istherearemedyatlawtorealizeit?
3)Ifthereisaremedy,isitonethatcanissuefromtheSupremeCourt?

HELD:1)Yes.2)Yes.3)No.

REASONING(Marshallfora60Court):

To1.BecauseMarburyscommissionwassignedbythePresidentandsealedbytheSecretaryofState,hehas
alegalrighttothecommission.
To2.Becausethesigningandsealingcompletedtheappointmentprocess,denialofthecommissionisa
violationofthelaw.Inagovernmentoflaws,aviolationofthelawcreatesagovernmentalresponsibilityto
remedytheviolation.Awritofmandamusissucharemedy.
To3.TheConstitutionisthesupremelawoftheland(Art.VI).Assuch,itissuperiorandfundamental
andparamount.Itestablishescertainlimitsonthepowerofthegovernmentitcreates.Thisincludesthe
Congress.Withoutsuchlimits,itwouldbegivingtothelegislatureapracticalandrealomnipotence.Thus,
alegislativeactcontrarytotheConstitutionisnotlaw.
Itisemphaticallytheprovinceanddutyofthejudicialdepartmenttosaywhatthelawis.Whenacase
comestotheSupremeCourt,theCourtmustdecidethatcaseaccordingtothelaw.Ifordinary(statutory)
legislationconflictswiththelimitsimposedongovernmentbytheConstitution,thefundamentallawmust
governtheordinary.IfthelegislaturepassedanactthattheConstitutionforbidslikeataxoninterstatesales,
anexpostfactolaw,oratreasonconvictionbasedonsomethingotherthantwowitnessesoraconfessionin
courtthecourtswouldhavetostrikeitdown.Otherwise,theConstitutionwouldnotlimitgovernment.
Courtshavethispowerbecausetheydecidecasesunderlaw;judgestakeanoathtoupholdtheConstitution,and
thisispartofthatfunction.
Followingtheseprinciples,MarburycannotreceiveamandamusfromtheCourt.TheConstitution
createstwocategoriesofjurisdictionfortheSupremeCourtoriginalandappellate.Congress,underArticle
III,hasthepowertoregulateappellatejurisdiction;nosuchpower,however,isgivenfortheregulationof
originaljurisdiction.ThelatteriscompletelyandexclusivelydefinedbyArticleIIIitcannotbeaddedtoor
takenawayfrom.TheprovisionoftheJudiciaryActof1789whichaddedmattersofmandamustotheoriginal
jurisdictionoftheCourt,therefore,isbeyondthepowergiventoCongressbythepeopleintheConstitution.
Havingnolegitimatejurisdictionoverthismatter,theCourtcannotprovideMarburywiththeremedyheseeks.

DECISION:Dismissforwantofjurisdiction.

DISSENTS:None

SIGNIFICANCE:Marshall,relyingheavilyonlogicalreasoningandlittleconstitutionaltext,readthepowerof
judicialreviewoveractsofthenationalgovernmentintoAmericanconstitutionallaw.Thispowerwasextended
overtheactionsofstategovernmentsinMartinv.HuntersLessee(1816)andstatecourtsinCohensv.Virginia
(1819),andis1)thesourceofmostoftheauthoritytheCourthascometoknow,and2)thefocalpointofthe
ultimatedebateabouttheCourtsproperconstitutionalrole:shoulditexercisethispowerfrequently(activism)or
sparingly(restraints).