What were the issues that led to the Marbury vs. Madison case?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main issues that led to the case of Marbury v. Madison were the distrust between the two political parties at the end of John Adams’ presidency and Adams’ desire to perpetuate the power of his party even after it lost the presidency.  These political issues morphed into a legal issue over the legality of James Madison’s actions as part of the new Jefferson Administration.

The election of 1800 was the first one in which one political party lost the presidency to the other party.  As such, it was a very important moment in American history.  John Adams and the Federalists had lost the election to Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.  In the last days of Federalist control, Congress passed a law expanding the number of federal judgeships, which allowed Adams to fill those positions before the Federalists left power.  Adams and the Federalists believed the Democratic-Republicans were very bad for the country and they felt that it was important for them to get a lot of judges into office to help perpetuate Federalist powers.

When William Marbury tried to take his seat as one of the new judges, he was prevented by the Democratic-Republicans.  He sued them, claiming that he had a right to his job.  This lawsuit became the famous Supreme Court case in which Chief Justice John Marshall declared that the Supreme Court had the power of judicial review.