The Ironies of Marbury v. Madison and John Marshall's Judicial Statesmanship

51 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2014

Date Written: 2004


In the annals of constitutional law Marbury v. Madison is an iconic case. Through various twists and turns, Chief Justice John Marshall set forth the Supreme Court’s authority to review the constitutionality of Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 and declare it unconstitutional based on its purported conflict with Article III of the Constitution. Much discussed and analyzed, Marbury remains a staple of constitutional law, as noteworthy for its far reaching conclusion about the role of the Supreme Court in a constitutional democracy as for its unusual procedural and factual background. This article examines the many ironies of Marbury v. Madison and provides an essential perspective from which to understand how John Marshall averted political embarrassment and institutional paralysis to craft a compelling opinion that enhanced the prestige of the Court at a critical juncture in American history.

Keywords: constitutional law, supreme court, judicial biography, constituional history

Suggested Citation

Olken, Samuel R., The Ironies of Marbury v. Madison and John Marshall's Judicial Statesmanship (2004). John Marshall Law Review, Vol. 37, p. 391, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Samuel R. Olken (Contact Author)

John Marshall Law School ( email )

315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604
United States
312-987-2378 (Phone)

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