Judicial Review

Judicial review is the doctrine by which laws written by the Legislative Branch and actions taken by the Executive branch are subject to review by the Judicial Branch. This is to say that all laws and executive orders are subject to the discretion of the judiciary to decide whether they are legal or not. Judicial review is an important component of the checks and balances that keep the powers of American government in line. Without judicial review, there would be no formal mechanism to ensure that Congress and the President pass laws that are in line with the principles of the Constitution. An important component of the idea of judicial review is that the court only has the power to decide what is legal according to The Constitution, not their personal philosophies.

Marbury v. Madison

The principle of judicial review was established in 1803 in the landmark Supreme Court Case Marbury v. Madison. Federalist William Marbury was appointed as Justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia under President John Adams in 1801; however, Secretary of State James Madison refused to deliver the paperwork to make his appointment official. Marbury sued Madison claiming that he is entitled to his commission as Justice of the Peace. The Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall found that the process for appointing justices of the peace is in the Constitution, and therefore Madison is under strict obligation to comply. In Marshall’s opinion he calls the Constitution, “the fundamental and paramount law of the nation” and claims “consequently the theory of every such government must be that an act of the Legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void.” Thus the principle of judicial review was established.

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