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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Marbury v. Madison Case Brief

Marbury v Madison Case Brief
William Marbury, the petitioner, was a Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. He was appointed by then President John Adams around the end of the latter’s term. However, when the new administration came into place, he was not granted his commission. Because of this, he brought his petition to the Supreme Court to force one Secretary of State, James Madison, to produce the documents that he required. He sued for a writ of Mandamus.

Marbury was of the opinion that the Supreme Court indeed had jurisdiction on the said issue. He claimed that Secretary Madison had violated federal as well as constitutional rules by not rewarding him with the commission he was entitled to, and he also claimed that a writ of Mandamus was the right legal remedy for his concern.

Procedural History
This case was brought directly to the Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court decided on this case.

1. Was the act of denying Marbury of his commission by the new administration violative of any laws or statutes?

2.  Was a writ of Mandamus the proper action to take for Marbury?

On the first question regarding the presence of a violation of the rights of Marbury, the Court simply established whether or not he had indeed been properly appointed by the former President. This would determine whether or not he had a vested right that had been violated.

On the second question regarding the propriety of the filing of a writ of Mandamus, the court established the elements required before such could be granted and then compared such to the case of Marbury. It also borough up the issue of the Court’s jurisdiction.

The issue of whether or not Marbury had a right to demand the delivery of the commission in question was determined by the Court by first determining the validity of his appointment to the office. The Court examined the pertinent articles of the Constitution in relation to Marbury’s appointment to his office and found that his appointment lied in the sole discretion of the president. Since Marbury’s commission was signed by the president and subsequently sealed by the secretary of state, it is well-established that he was indeed entitled to the commission under question.

The Court then defined a writ of Mandamus and likewise enumerated some of its essential requirements. Simply put, the Court defined a writ of Mandamus as a command which is issued by the highest authorities when a person is deprived of his lawful rights and or possessions and he has no other legal means to prevent such from occurring. Such a writ is an order to a third party to do something which pertains to his office and assigned duty which was previously conferred upon him by the same authority. It may also be an order which, although not pertaining to the specific duties of an individual, is for the furtherance of justice and equity. In simpler terms, such a writ must be directed to a person in authority, and the aggrieved party must not have any other legal remedy available to him.

Using the abovementioned criteria, the Court decided that indeed, Marbury was entitled to demand that a writ of Mandamus be issued.

However, on the question of jurisdiction, the Court was in conflict. A legislative act, the Judiciary Act of 1789 gave it jurisdiction to grant Mandamus; on the other hand, the Constitution did not.


It was established in this case that the Supreme Court did not have proper jurisdiction to issue a writ of Mandamus. Corollarily, it likewise declared the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional.

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