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Marbury v. Madison

Supreme Court of the United States

February 24, 1803, Decided

No Number in Original

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

At a prior term, the Court granted an applicant a rule directing the Secretary of State of the United States to show cause why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to deliver to the applicant his commission as a justice of the peace. No cause was shown, so the applicant moved for a mandamus.

Overview

The applicant and two others contended that the late President of the United States had nominated them to the Senate and that the Senate had advised and consented to their appointments as justices of the peace. The commissions were signed by the late President and the seal of the United States was affixed to the commissions by the Secretary of State. The commissions were withheld from the applicants and they requested their delivery. The Court granted a rule to show cause, requiring the Secretary to show cause why a mandamus should not issue to direct him to deliver to the commissions. No cause was shown and the applicant filed a motion for a mandamus. The Court determined that the applicant had a vested legal right in his appointment because his commission had been signed by the President, sealed by the Secretary of State, and the appointment was not revocable. The Court found that because the applicant had a legal title to the office, the laws afforded him a remedy. However, the Court held that § 13 of the Act of 1789, giving the Court authority to issue writs of mandamus to an officer, was contrary to the Constitution as an act of original jurisdiction, and therefore void.

Outcome

The rule was discharged.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Constitutional Law > The Presidency > Appointment of Officials

Military & Veterans Law > Armed Forces > Organization > US President

HN1  The Presidency, Appointment of Officials

U.S. Const. art. II, § 2 declares, that the president shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not otherwise provided for. U.S. Const. art. II, § 3 declares, that he shall commission all the officers of the United States.

 

Administrative Law > Separation of Powers > Executive Controls

Constitutional Law > The Presidency > Appointment of Officials

HN2  Separation of Powers, Executive Controls

An act of Congress directs the secretary of state to keep the seal of the United States, to make out and record, and affix the said seal to all civil commissions to officers of the United States, to be appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the senate, or by the President alone; provided that the said seal shall not be affixed to any commission before the same shall have been signed by the President of the United States.

 

Administrative Law > Separation of Powers > Executive Controls

Constitutional Law > The Presidency > Appointment of Officials

Constitutional Law > Congressional Duties & Powers > General Overview

Constitutional Law > Separation of Powers

HN3  Separation of Powers, Executive Controls

U.S. Const. art. II, § 2 authorizes Congress to vest, by law, the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

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5 U.S. 137 ; 2 L. Ed. 60 ; 1803 U.S. LEXIS 352 ; 1 Cranch 137

WILLIAM MARBURY v. JAMES MADISON, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES.

Prior History:  [1]  AT the last term, viz. December term, 1801, William Marbury, Dennis Ramsay, Robert Townsend Hooe, and William Harper, by their counsel, Charles Lee, esq. late attorney general of the United States, severally moved the court for a rule to James Madison, secretary of state of the United States, to show cause why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to cause to be delivered to them respectively their several commissions as justices of the peace in the district of Columbia. This motion was supported by affidavits of the following facts; that notice of this motion had been given to Mr. Madison; that Mr. Adams, the late president of the United States, nominated the applicants to the senate for their advice and consent to be appointed justices of the peace of the district of Columbia; that the senate advised and consented to the appointments; that commissions in the due form were signed by the said president appointing them justices, &c. and that the seal of the United States was in due form affixed to the said commissions by the secretary of state; that the applicants have requested Mr. Madison to deliver them their said commissions, who has not complied with that request; and that [2]  their said commissions are withheld from them; that the applicants have made application to Mr. Madison as secretary of state of the United States at his office, for information whether the commissions were signed and sealed as aforesaid; that explicit and satisfactory information has not been given to that enquiry, either by the secretary of state or by any officer of the department of state; that application has been made to the secretary of the Senate for a certificate of the nomination of the applicants, and of the advice and consent of the senate, who has declined giving such a certificate; whereupon a rule was laid to show cause on the 4th day of this term. This rule having been duly served,

Disposition: The rule was discharged.