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April 2, 2009

The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court

Marbury cover   This is a great book if you love the Supreme Court and the history of our country.  It is an entire book on Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) written by Cliff Sloan and David McKean.  The Amazon listing is here. 

I had no idea how close we came to making the Supreme Court a weak sister to Congress and the Executive Branch.  The book details the Judiciary Act of 1801 which created a whole bunch of new judgeships (and Circuit Courts of Appeal) by the Federalist Congress right before John Adams left the presidency filling the new positions on his way out.  The Republicans took over Congress and Thomas Jefferson, resenting the fact that the Federalists would control the judiciary for a long time, exhorted the now Republican Congress to repeal the Judiciary Act of 1801 and pitch out most of the so-called midnight judges.  In the meantime, William Marbury sued the Secretary of State, James Madison, demanding that he be ordered to deliver the judicial commission.  The suit was filed by Marbury in the Supreme Court because the Judiciary Act of 1791 authorized certain suits to be filed directly with the Supreme Court.  Worrying about the courts getting too strong, Congress did repeal the Judiciary Act of 1801 and changed the Supreme Court "sessions" so that Marbury v. Madison could not be heard until Feb 1803.  In the meantime, Stuart v. Laird was filed challenging the power of Congress to repeal the act which in effect removed 16 or so judges who had been appointed "for life" under the Act.      

Given the incredible atmosphere, Marshall crafted an incredible decision striking down the portion of the 1791 Act giving the Supreme Court original jursidiction over certain actions.  A few days later the Supreme Court, without Marshall who had recused himself since he was the trial judge (on Circuit) in the Stuart v. Laird trial, agreed with the Marshall lower court ruling that Congress had the power to repeal its act.            

The book is easy to read and fascinating and I highly recommend it.  . 

Don't forget my book on the Supreme Court - Bankruptcy Jurisprudence and the Supreme Court - which you can get on Amazon here.   

April 2, 2009 in Book Reports | Permalink


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I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Posted by: Sarah | Apr 4, 2009 6:17:01 AM

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