The Growth of the Prestige and Power of the Supreme Court Under Marshall
Federalist John Adams had lost the re-election against Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. To keep the Federalist influence alive, Adams acted under the Judiciary Act of 1801, which allowed him to appoint several supreme court judges and justices. He did this just two days before Jefferson was inaugurated. Procrastinate much?
That Jefferson! I'll show him! I'm going to keep Federalism ALIVE and these new justices that I appoint will be opposed to the new policies of the Republican administration!
When Jefferson finally took office, he realized that many of the judicial commissions that were approved and signed by John Adams had not been distributed, which meant the judges and justices couldn't start their jobs yet. At this point, Jefferson had two options. He could either distribute the commissions, or he could withhold them to his advantage.
Hey Madison! Not so fast on delivering those commissions!
As you wish, sir!
One of the imminent chief justices, William Marbury, was outraged that he did not receive his commission. He took his case to Chief Justice John Marshall, petitioning the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus.
I demand a court order to the secretary of state, James Madison, for him to distribute my commission!
Ruling this case, John Marshall saw this as an opportunity to establish important legal precedence, a decision beyond whether or not Marbury would receive his commission.
JEEZ MARBURY! LET ME FINISH MY SENTENCE! As I was saying, although you should have been given your commission according to Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the court has determined that the act is unconstitutional. So sorry dude, you don't get your job.
So Marbury, you do technically have the right to receive your commission, but--
OOOH YAY DOES THIS MEAN I GET MY JOB?!
The case of Marbury vs Madison was the first to establish the doctrine of the judicial review; the Supreme Court's ability to declare a legislative or executive act unconstitutional. This power of the judicial review ensures that each branch of government recognizes the limits of their own power.