Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study

Facts of the Case

Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party was elected president in the elections of 1800. The federalists amended the Judiciary Act of 1801 to have control over the judiciary and use it to obstruct the president’s legislative agenda.

Procedural History

William Marbury, a Federalist Party leader from Maryland, was entitled to receive a commission ahead of the inauguration of Jefferson’s elected president. However, as soon as the president assumed office, he instructed Madison, the secretary of state, to withhold the commission (Kloppenbe, 2020). Marbury had to file a case in the Supreme Court on December 21, 1801, seeking a writ of mandamus that would enable him to urge his commission to be provided.


The Court delved into the matter to determine whether it had any power to resolve the issues of the case, particularly if Marbury was entitled to the commission. The Court further had to settle whether Madison overstepped Marbury’s right and the appropriate legal remedy. Finally, the Court was to decide if the remedy would be a mandamus issuing.

The decision by the Court

Chief John Marshall announced the decision of the Court on February 24, 1803, where it turned down the application for the writ. Consequently, the Court denied Marbury’s right to the commission.

Reasoning and Rule of Law Applied by the Court

Even as the Court determined that by not giving the commission, Madison acted illegally, it failed to provide for Marbury to be handed the commission through a writ of mandamus. It established that the provision under the Judiciary Act of 1789 was not constitutional. The act expanded the Court’s original jurisdiction over and above what the law provided under Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution (Kloppenbe, 2020). The writ of mandamus would have been the appropriate remedy, but it has been awarded against the Constitution’s provisions.

Analysis and Importance of the Case

The ruling by the Court was lauded as a way of protecting the American Constitution under the principle of judicial review. It implied that the Court could exercise its power to set aside laws repulsive to the Constitution.


‌ Kloppenbe, RG, J. T. (2020). To Promote the General Welfare: Why Madison Matters. The Supreme Court Review, 2019, 355–384. Web.

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"Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study." LawBirdie, 16 Nov. 2023,


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study'. 16 November.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study." November 16, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study." November 16, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Marbury v. Madison: The Case Study." November 16, 2023.