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:
- The Constitution is the supreme law of the country.
- The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority in ruling on constitutional matters.
- The judiciary must rule against any law that conflicts with the Constitution.