“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.”
This case explores the legal concepts of federalism, judicial review, and separation of powers/checks and balances.
At the end of President John Adams’ term, his secretary of state failed to deliver documents commissioning William Marbury as justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Once President Thomas Jefferson was sworn in, he told James Madison, his secretary of state, not to deliver the documents to Marbury and others in order to keep members of the opposing political party from taking office. Marbury sued James Madison asking the Supreme Court to issue a writ requiring him to deliver the documents necessary to officially make Marbury justice of the peace. The Supreme Court chose not to answer Marbury’s question, but rather whether they had the jurisdiction to issue the writ. The Marbury v. Madison decision resulted in the establishment of the concept of judicial review.