Chief Justice John Marhsall

Supreme Court Justice and his cases

Marbury vs. Madison

Year of case: 1803

Summary: In the early 1800’s the Democratic Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson defeated the Federalist Party led by John Adams. This was known as the first Peaceful Revolution because there was no uprising of violence. However there was still political tension. At the very end of his term, President John Adams had made many federal appointments, including William Marbury as justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Marbury who was a Federalist was denied his appointment by Madison, Jefferson’s secretary of state. At the direction of Jefferson, Madison refused to deliver Marbury's commission. Marbury sued Madison, and the Supreme Court took the case. John Marshal wrote the Judiciary Act of 1789 stating that the practice of delivering commissions for judges and justices of the peace, was unconstitutional due to the fact it gave the Supreme Court authority was not allowed by Article III of the Constitution

Constitutional Principle: Established The Principle of Judicial review.

Significance: This case created the principle of Judicial Review. Also this led to the extremely important power that the Supreme Court has the power to declare laws unconstitutional. Overall this court case gave made the Supreme Court more powerful in the government.

Fletcher vs. Peck

Date: 1810

Summary: In 1795, the Georgia state legislature passed a land grant awarding territory to four companies. The following year, the legislature voided the law and declared all rights and claims under it to be invalid. In 1800, John Peck acquired land that was part of the original legislative grant. He then sold some land to Robert Fletcher three years later, claiming that past sales of the land had been legitimate. Fletcher said that since the original sale of the land was declared invalid or legitimate, Peck had no legal right to sell him the land and therefor created a breach of contract.

Constitutional Principle: The court ruled that an act of the Georgia legislature rescinding a land grant was unconstitutional because it revoked rights previously granted by contract.

Significance: The decision was the first to declare a state legislative act unconstitutional.

Dartmouth College vs. Woodward

Year of the Case: 1819

Summary of the Case: In 1816, the New Hampshire legislature tried to change Dartmouth College, which was a privately funded institution, into a state university. The legislature changed the school's corporate charter by transferring the control of appointments to the governor. This made the old trustees extremely mad and they filed suit against William H. Woodward to regain control of the College. Woodward sided with the new appointees. In a 6-to-1 decision, the Court stated that the College's corporate charter qualified as a contract between private parties, and the legislature could not interfere. The fact that the government had commissioned the charter did not transform the school into a civil institution. Chief Justice Marshall's opinion emphasized that the term "contract" referred to transactions involving individual property rights, not to "the political relations between the government and its citizens."

Constitutional Principle: Marshall says the charter was a contract; “The Constitution protected contracts against state encroachments”.

Significance: The decision increased the power of the federal government over the states. It reaffirmed that the U.S. Supreme Court could invalidate state laws when it found those laws unconstitutional.

McCulloch McCullogh vs. Maryland

Year of the Case: 1819

Summary of the Case: In 1816, Congress chartered The Second Bank of the United States. In 1818, the state of Maryland passed legislation to impose taxes on the bank. James W. McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the bank, refused to pay the tax. The case presented two questions: Did Congress have the authority to establish the bank? Did the Maryland law unconstitutionally interfere with congressional powers? With a unanimous decision, the Court decided that Congress had the power to incorporate the bank and that Maryland could not tax instruments of the national government employed in the execution of constitutional powers.

Constitutional Principle: The Constitution grants to Congress implied powers in order to create a functional national government.

Significance: This case declared that the United States government had implied powers as well as those specifically listed in the Constitution. The decision provided for the federal government to expand its powers to keep up with the always changing world.

Martin vs. Hunter's Lesse

Year of the Case: 1816

Summary of the Case: Lord Fairfax held land in Virginia. He was a Loyalist and fled to England during the Revolution. He died in 1781 and left his land to his nephew, Denny Martin. Next year, the Virginia legislature voided the original land grant and transferred the land back to Virginia, who then granted a portion of this land to David Hunter. The Supreme Court declared that Fairfax was entitled, but the Virginia courts, where the suit arose, refused to follow the Supreme Court's decision. The Court rejected the claim that Virginia and the national government were equal. With reasoning from the Constitution, Justice Story declared the Court's power to override state courts to secure a reliable system of law.

Constitutional Principle: The constitution states that (in article 3) the supreme court has power over all state courts.

Significance: This court established that the Supreme Court has supremacy over state courts, and that state courts must hold decisions made by the Supreme Court.

Cohens vs. Virginia

Year of the Case: 1821

Summary of the Case: Congress authorized the operation of a lottery in the District of Columbia. The Cohen brothers sold D.C. lottery tickets in the state of Virginia, violating state law. State authorities tried and convicted the Cohens, and then declared themselves to be the final moderators of disputes between the states and the national government. In a unanimous decision, the Court stated that the Supreme Court had the power to review state criminal proceedings. Chief Justice Marshall wrote that the Court must hear all cases that involved constitutional questions. After establishing the Court's jurisdiction, Marshall stated that the lottery ordinance was a local matter and that the Virginia court was allowed to fine the Cohens brothers for violating Virginia law.

Constitutional Principle: Established/displayed Judicial review.

Significance: The case showed the Supreme Court's right to review state court decisions in criminal law matters when Constitutional rights have been violated.