impact of the chief justice marshal in the US Laws


The Impact of Chief Justice Marshall John Marshall served as chief justice from 1801 to 1835 and dominated the Court to a degree unmatched by any other justice. Marshall’s dominance of the Court enabled him to initiate major changes in the way opinions were presented. Prior to his tenure,

justices ordinarily wrote separate opinions (called “seriatim” opinions – Latin for “one after the other”) in major cases. Under Marshall’s stewardship, the Court adopted the practice of handing down a single opinion. Marshall’s goal was to keep dissension to a minimum. Arguing that dissent undermined the Court’s authority, he tried to persuade the justices to settle their differences privately and then present a united front to the public. Marshall also used his powers to involve the Court in the policy-making process. Early in his tenure as chief justice, for example, 

the Court asserted its power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional, in Marbury v. Madison (1803). This case had its beginnings in the presidential election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in his bid for reelection. Before leaving office in March 1801, however, 

Adams and the lame-duck Federalist Congress created several new federal judgeships. To fill these new positions Adams nominated, and the Senate confirmed, loyal Federalists. In addition, Adams named his outgoing secretary of state, John Marshall, to be the new chief justice of the Supreme Court. As secretary of state it had been Marshall’s job to deliver the commissions of the newly appointed judges. Time ran out, however, and 17 of the commissions were not delivered before Jefferson’s inauguration. The new president ordered his secretary of state, James Madison,

 not to deliver the remaining commissions. One of the disappointed nominees was William Marbury. He and three of his colleagues, all confirmed as justices of the peace for the District of Columbia, decided to ask the Supreme Court to force Madison to deliver their commissions. They relied upon Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which granted the Supreme Court the authority to issue writs of mandamus

 — court orders commanding a public official to perform an official, nondiscretionary duty. The case placed Marshall in a predicament. Some suggested that he disqualify himself because of his earlier involvement as secretary of state. There was also the question of the Court’s power. If Marshall were to grant the writ, Madison (under Jefferson’s orders) would be almost certain to refuse to deliver the commissions. The Supreme Court would then be powerless to enforce its order. However, if Marshall refused to grant the writ, Jefferson would win by default. 

The decision Marshall fashioned from this seemingly impossible predicament was evidence of sheer genius. He declared Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional because it granted original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court in excess of that specified in Article III of the Constitution

The Changing Issue Emphasis of the Supreme Court Until approximately 1865 the legal relationship between the national and state governments, or cases of federalism, dominated the Court’s docket. John Marshall believed in a strong national government and did not hesitate to restrict state policies that interfered with its activities. A case in point is Gibbons v. Ogden (1824),

 in which the Court overturned a state monopoly over steamboat transportation on the ground that it interfered with national control over interstate commerce. Another good example of Marshall’s use of the Court to expand the federal government’s powers came in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), in which the chief justice held that the Constitution permitted Congress to establish a national bank. The Court’s insistence on a strong national government did not significantly diminish after Marshall’s death. Roger Taney, who succeeded Marshall as chief justice, served from 1836 to 1864. Although the Court’s position during this period was not as uniformly favorable to the federal government, 

the Taney Court did not reverse the Marshall Court’s direction. During the period 1865-1937 issues of economic regulation dominated the Court’s docket. The shift in emphasis from federalism to economic regulation was brought on by a growing number of national and state laws aimed at monitoring business activities. As such laws increased, so did the number of cases challenging their constitutionality. Early in this period the Court’s position on regulation was mixed, but by the 1920s the bench had become quite hostile toward government regulatory policy.

 Federal regulations were generally overturned on the ground that they were unsupported by constitutional grants of power to Congress, whereas state laws were thrown out mainly as violations of economic rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Since 1937 the Supreme Court has focused on civil liberties concerns 

— in particular, the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. In addition, an increasing number of cases have dealt with procedural rights of criminal defendants. Finally, the Court has decided a great number of cases concerning equal treatment by the government of racial minorities and other disadvantaged groups.

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