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Major Supreme Court Cases Under Judge John Marshall

Essay by review  •  August 23, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,440 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,775 Views

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The decisions made by Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall have had a major influence on today's Judiciary System. One of his major decisions was in the case Marbury v. Madison, in which he set the precedent of judicial review. Another major decision is in the case McCulloch v. Maryland, in this case Marshall ruled that Congress possesses certain implied powers. Other major decisions made by Marshall were in the cases Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Gibbons v. Ogden, in which Marshall defined national power over interstate commerce, and Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia.

"John Marshall was the fourth chief justice of the United States, he was known as Great Chief Justice. He established the modern status of the Supreme Court. He served in the Revolutionary War, studied law, and was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1782. A staunch Federalist, Marshall supported acceptance of the Constitution. He declined ministerial posts but became one of the United States negotiators who resolved the XYZ Affair. Elected to Congress in 1799, he was made secretary of state by President John Adams. In 1801 he became Chief Justice. Marshall labored to increase the then-scant power and prestige of the Supreme Courts" (Harkavy, 680).

One of Chief Justice John Marshall's first decisions was in the case Marbury v. Madison. "Near the end of President Adams first administration Congress authorized the President to appoint justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. This was the occasion of the midnight appointments and the failure of Adam's Secretary of State to deliver commissions of appointment. A new administration took office and Secretary of State Madison, directed by President Jefferson, refused delivery. Thereupon Marbury, one of the midnight appointees, went to the Supreme Court requesting a judicial order, writ of mandamus, to compel Madison to deliver his commission. Article III. Section 2, of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction only in cases affecting the Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a state shall be a Party. Marbury's case did not fall in that category. Marbury went to the Supreme Court because in his view an act of Congress, Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, authorized him to do so. The clash between Constitution and Act of Congress became a problem in the court's decision" (Mendelson, 5-6).

"The court refused to rule on the appointment because Section 13 gave the Supreme Court powers not provided by the constitution. The court declared Section 13 unconstitutional. This marked the first time the United States Supreme Court declared a federal law unconstitutional. It established the supremacy of the Constitution over laws passed by congress and the right of the court to review the Constitutionality of legislation" (Kutler, 193). "Marshall stated the powers of the legislature are defined and limited...It is emphatically the province and the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. The Constitution was thus established as a legal document subject to interpretation only by the courts" (U.S. Law, 883).

Another one of Marshall's major decisions was in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland. "James McCulloch, cashier of the Baltimore branch of the Bank of the United States, refused to pay a Maryland State tax on the bank. The court first upheld the implied powers of Congress to create a bank, because Congress needed a bank to exercise its specified power. The tax was declared unconstitutional because it interfered with an instrument of the federal government. He ruled that Congress has implied powers in addition to those specified in the Constitution, and when federal and state powers conflict, federal powers prevail" (Kutler, 335).

"Marshall's opinion for the court in McCulloch v. Maryland upheld the constitutionality of the Second Bank of the United States, which has been created by an Act of Congress in 1816, on the basis of implied powers of Congress under the Constitution. His opinion also invalidated Maryland's efforts to impose an indirect tax on the Bank as a federal instrumentality" (The Supreme Court, 21).

The decision in Dartmouth College v. Woodward was another major ruling by Chief Justice John Marshall. "In 1769, King George III of Great Britain granted Dartmouth College a charter as a private school. Various states succeeded to the rights and obligations of such charters when they became independent. In 1816, New Hampshire tried to make Dartmouth the State University by canceling the charter. Former trustees of the college claimed that the royal charter was still valid. They sued to recover the school seal and records from William H. Woodward, the college secretary. Daniel Webster, a graduate of Dartmouth, presented the trustees case before the Supreme Court in one of his greatest arguments. The court ruled for the trustees saying that the state had impaired the obligation of the charter in violation of Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution. Because of this case, legislatures today put time limitations on charters or include provisions allowing cancellation by the government under proper circumstances" (William, 38).

Marshall also had a major decision in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden. "New York granted Robert Fulton exclusive steamboat rights on the Hudson River in New York for a limited period of years" (Mendelson, 85). "Thomas Gibbons had a federal license to use the same waters" (Kutler, 185). "Gibbons ran steamboats from New York to New Jersey violating Fulton's patent. The case began as an action by Fulton's interests to stop infringement. The court said it was repugnant to that clause in the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to regulate Congress. It was also repugnant to that which authorizes Congress to promote the progress of science and useful arts" (Mendelson, 85).

"The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gibbons, declaring the federal license superior to the state grant. This case marked the first time the Supreme Court of the United States dealt with the powers of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. The court ruled that federal powers were superior to those of the states in all matters of interstate commerce. The court broadly defined the commerce to include the means and routes of transportation"

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