How Did John Marshall Affect the Supreme Court?

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According to the National Archives, Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle of judicial review in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison. His decision expanded the powers of the Supreme Court by establishing its right to overturn acts by the president, Congress and states if the acts violated the Constitution. With this decision, Chief Justice Marshall added judicial review to the governmental system of “checks and balances.”

Chief Justice Marshall declared, “A law repugnant to the Constitution is void.” This was the first time the Supreme Court declared a law passed by Congress and signed by the president unconstitutional, according to the National Archives.

The case of Marbury v. Madison began when President John Adams attempted to pack federal courts with appointments, but the outgoing Secretary of State failed to deliver some of the commissions. When incoming President Thomas Jefferson refused Marbury’s commission, Marbury sued. While Chief Justice Marshall recognized that Marbury’s appointment was valid, he determined its validity expired because the former president was no longer in office to enforce it, and the current president had the right to confirm or deny an appointee. Since there was no judicial order for the president to reject, Marshall’s decision was unchallenged, setting the precedent for judicial review, according to the Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.