top of page




President John Adams, weeks before the end of his mandate, appointed Mr. William Marbury (Marbury) and others as justices of peace in DC. Although their nomination was confirmed and the commission signed by the President itself, Mr. James Madison, who was the Secretary of State of the newly elected President Mr. Thomas Jefferson, refused to deliver them their commission. Therefore, Mr. William Marbury requested the Supreme Court of the United States of America to issue a writ of mandamus, to force Mr. James Madison to deliver his commission, based in the Judiciary Act of 1789.


The Supreme Court of Justice of the United States of America authored the opinion. Firstly, the Supreme Court granted a rule where the Mr. James Madison, as Secretary of State, had to explain the cause or reason why a mandamus was not to be issued, however, since the latter did not happen, then the Mr. Marbury, as applicant moved for a mandamus to be issued by the Court.


The issues to be determined by the court were: a) If Marbury was entitled or not to mandamus from the Supreme Court, b) if Marbury had a right to the commission demanded and c) if he had a right, and a violation to that right occurred, whether or not he was entitled to obtain a remedy.


The Supreme Court of the United States has the sufficient authority to review actions of the executive and laws enacted by the legislative. However, the Supreme Court has limited jurisdiction, and the limits are established by the Constitution itself, that cannot be enlarged by the Legislative body.


It was determined that since the President had signed the commission of Marbury after his confirmation, and it was sealed by the Secretary of State, then the appointment was already made, was not revocable and the appointee (Mr. Marbury) was entitled to that commission.

Since the withholding of the title would have been a violation of the civil liberty to claim for the correct protection of the laws for. Mr. Marbury, therefore, the main issue was to determine whether the Supreme Court of Justice was entitled to issue a writ a mandamus, since that court has an “original jurisdiction” although it was not warranted by the constitution, so the problem of its exercise was the key point of the analysis. One of the questions was, whether an act that is not contemplated in the constitution can become a law? And the answer was that it was emphatically the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is, therefore, they had jurisdiction to solve the corresponding issues of the controversy. Since such judicial power had jurisdiction to all cases that might arise in relation to the constitution of the United States of America.

Therefore, the issuance of the mandamus to Mr. Madison, as the Secretary of State, was in any case to sustain an act that allegedly was outside of the border of the Constitution imposed on the United States Supreme Court. Finally, this case established an important precedent that confirmed that a law that was repugnant to the constitution was a void law; and all the other courts and the other powers of the state were bound by the Constitution itself.


In the end, the rule was discharged. And it was determined that the Constitution was the supreme law of the United States, and since the authority given to the Supreme Court, to issue writs of mandamus was not based on the Constitution, therefore the Court was not entitled to oblige Mr. Madison to deliver the commissions.

Fuentes de Consulta:

California State University, Northridge. (s.f.). How to Brief a Case Using the “IRAC” Method [PDF en línea]. Recuperado en

Secretary of State of the United States. (1803). 5 U.S. 137 (1803), MARBURY V. MADISON [WEB]. Recuperado en*/title%3A(Marbury+v+madison)/p2/WW/vid/606379702

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
bottom of page