Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Marbury, Madison, McCulloch, and Maryland

Marbury v Madison
[February 24, 1803, decision unanimous which at the time was 4-0]

William Marbury was appointed Justice of the Peace by President John Adams under the Judiciary Act of 1789, but his commission was not delivered before Adams left the presidency.  His successor, Thomas Jefferson, ordered that all undelivered appointments remain undelivered.  His Secretary of State, James Madison, declined to deliver the remaining appointments.  Marbury sued Madison, because his appointment had been validly made and accepted by the Senate.

The Supreme Court ruled that Marbury had the right to his commission, but the Court did not have the power to force Madison to deliver the commission because the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional.

Marbury never became a Justice of the Peace.

This case is considered a landmark case because the Supreme Court gave itself the power to overturn
as unconstitutional a law passed by Congress.  The power to overturn a law is not expressly given in the Constitution.  Therefore, the Supreme Court basically decided it was the ultimate decision-maker regarding the US Constitution.

McCulloch v Maryland
[March 6, 1819, decision unanimous which at the time was 6-0]

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 Supreme Court ruled that Congress has powers “implied” but not specifically expressed in the Constitution, specifically here to create a Bank of the United States.  And the states are subordinate to the federal government and cannot pass laws which impede a valid federal law or action.

Did you guess right?
Here's Monday's hint - N is for New London.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!


  1. Okay, let's formulate a guess for the upcoming N entry. While New London is a town in my home state, I'm guessing this is something to do with the New London in Connecticut. Never been there, but let's assume it's a port city. Further, let's figure that imports from the Old World arrived there and exchanged goods on the ship, so it was off U.S. soil, thus avoiding U.S. taxes. New London claimed the waters were theirs and began taxing ships, which refused to pay. Ultimately, the Supreme Court rendered a unanimous decision that the U.S. can collect taxes within 50 miles of the shoreline.

    I'm sure that's nothing close to what we're going to see Monday, but I was feeling lucky.

    1. Score one for being brave! And - you are absolutely correct that it is New London Connecticut. But - nothing about water or taxes. So you'll have to settle for being brave and guessing the correct city.

      Happy Easter!

  2. Poor Marbury got rather screwed over, didn't he? You can have it...but we don't have to give it to you.
    Discarded Darlings - Jean Davis, Speculative Fiction Writer, A to Z: Editing Fiction

    1. That's a pretty accurate description of the final result.