What were the three principles of judicial review established by the Marbury v. Madison decision?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that Thomas Jefferson had been wrong in refusing to seat William Marbury as a justice of the peace (Jefferson had carried this out through his Secretary of State, James Madison). Marbury had been one of the "midnight appointments," or last-minute appointees, of the previous president, John Adams, on his way out of office. 

The Supreme Court also stated that it did not have the power to force Jefferson to seat Marbury. In seemingly restricting its power, the court was actually stating that it had the power of judicial review, or the right to review the constitutionality of laws passed by lower courts, by the legislative branch, and by the executive branch of the government. 

The three principles of judicial review are as follows:

  1. The Constitution is the supreme law of the country.
  2. The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority in ruling on constitutional matters.
  3. The judiciary must rule against any law that conflicts with the Constitution. 
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just to be clear, the power of judicial review is the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws passed by Congress or the states to be unconstitutional.

I would suggest that you consult your text or your class notes for what your teacher thinks are the three principles of judicial review in this case because it's not as if the Court said "here are the three principles..."

That said, here are what I see as the three ideas that the Court uses to justify taking the power for themselves (remember that this power is not given to them by the Constitution):

  • The people established the Constitution to limit what government can do
  • The Constitution is superior to other laws and so laws that go against the Constitution are invalid
  • It is the job of the judicial branch to decide what the law is

So therefore, the judicial branch gets to exercise the power of judicial review because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and it is the job of that branch to decide what the law says.

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