Describe the circumstances and outcome of the Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison. How did this case impact American federalism?

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dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1803 Chief Justice John Marshall definitely increased the power of the Federal government when the court ruled on the Marbury case. From 1789 until 1803 it was unclear as to the full function the Judicial branch of government would possess. While it is true that Article III identifies the Judicial Branch, it was not until the decision in the very first Supreme Court case (Marbury v. Madison) that the court under Marshall assumed the power of 'judicial review', that is the power to interpret the meaning of the Constitution with regard to law. John Marshall essentially strengthened the power of the federal government by securing the idea that Supreme Court decisions were the highest in the land in both original and appellate jurisdiction. Therefore the Supreme Court (an arm of the federal government) had the final say in federal cases as well as the appeal of decisions rendered under the state supreme courts.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The establishment of the Supreme Court as being the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution might have some tangential effects to Federalism.  The supremacy of the Court might bolster the claim that the federal government and its judicial branch has the ultimate authority on determining the constitutionality of actions and legislation.  Yet, the decision's primary focus was to bolster the strength of the independent judiciary in relation to the other two branches.  Through its ruling, the Marshall Court established the strength of the federal courts over local and state courts, and placed the responsibility for safeguarding the Constitution into the hands of the Judicial Branch, giving it the ultimate check against the other two branches.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marbury v. Madison did not impact federalism very much at all.  It was a case about what powers the judiciary would have.  In that case, the Supreme Court took the power of judicial review for itself.

The Constitution says nothing about whether the courts have the right to declare laws passed by Congress to be unconstitutional.  It was not clear whether the Court would be able to do this or whether anything the Congress did was, by definition, legal.

In this case, the Supreme Court decided that they, indeed, were the ones who had the right to say what was and was not Constitutional.

If you are looking for a case that had to do with federalism, perhaps you are thinking of McCulloch v. Maryland.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the above statements, and would also add that part of the circumstances of the court involved its new Chief Justice, John Marshall, who had been appointed at the last minute as one of John Adams' "Midnight Judges". Adams was trying to shape the future of the court in a federalist direction, as he feared his rival Jefferson would swing the country in the other direction as President. (Plus, Adams was more than a little bitter that he had lost).

Marshall, known as the "Father of the Supreme Court" for his long run so early on in the court's history, tended to bend his rulings in favor of federal power, and did so for over three decades on the bench.