Working individually or in pairs, students will generate one (possibly two, depending on size of the class) single-page overview of a landmark decision of the Supreme Court. The one-page description should include the background of the case, the historical importance, and the decision of the court. We expect each group to make their page visually appealing and each group has the freedom to use any layout they so choose. We will be combining all of the projects into one large book on the subject of “Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court of the United States”. This book of cases will be referenced during class and several of the cases will appear on a quiz and/or the exam for this unit.
Project must include each of the following:
Name of the case (Caption)
Date/Year of case
Participants (expand upon caption—give background as needed)
Background information and circumstances leading to the case (Facts)
Constitutional Issue and Other Relevant Sources of Law Discussed
Decision of the Court (including size of majority, concurring/dissenting opinions—Yes, you need the majority and ALL concurring/dissenting)
William Marbury, a prosperous Maryland banker and ardent Federalist who had received a “midnight appointment” from outgoing Federalist president John Adams to the federal bench, was the plaintiff; while James Madison, the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights [honorary title], the [eventual] 4th president of the United States, the founder of the Democratic Republican party [along with Thomas Jefferson], and most importantly for this case, the Secretary of State for the incoming 3rd President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, was the defendant.
The case was a question of whether or not Marbury had a right to the appointment and whether or not the court could provide a remedy for his request. The case brought up a battle over the constitutionality of the Judiciary Act of 1789 (amended, 1801) wherein the Congress gave the courts broad power to issue certain writs. This Act was designed to strengthen the courts against executive interference but the Court decided it was an over-reaching of Congressional authority and therefore (even though it was strengthening the courts) it was unconstitutional.
The relevant Constitutional points were the powers given to the Judicial Branch in Article III Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution and the constitutionality of the Judiciary Act of 1789 (amended, 1801) as it related to Article III, Section 2. The decision established the Court’s right to review acts of Congress and so it firmly established the principle of Judicial Review.
It was a unanimous decision (4-0). Due to the absence of 2 justices (due to illness) the number of justices hearing the oral arguments of the case, and thus rendering a decision on the case, was quite small.
Although the case was a look at the Judiciary Act and it established the principle of Judicial Review; it was like an inter-family squabble as the main forces behind the ascent of the case were outgoing Federalist Secretary of State (and eventual Supreme Court sitting Justice who would hear this case) John Marshall who had been asked to deliver the infamous midnight appointments and incoming Democratic Republican president Thomas Jefferson who were, in fact, 2nd cousins who really couldn’t stand each other.