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The Supreme Court and Judicial Review
“If children do not understand the Constitution, they cannot understand how our government functions, or what their rights and responsibilities are as citizens of the United States.” – John Roberts
Although the Judiciary Act of 1789 established the legal concept of judicial review, it was the 1803 Supreme Court Case, Marbury v. Madison, which established the Supreme Court as the arbiter of whether the executive actions, congressional legislation, or lower court judicial decisions are constitutional.
In 1803, the Supreme Court heard the case, Marbury v. Madison. Chief Justice John Marshall, writing on behalf of a unanimous court, stated “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803) In other words, the Supreme Court has the power to the final decider on what is constitutional or unconstitutional – be it congressional legislation, executive action, or judicial decisions. The Supreme Court’s power of judicial review is a salient component of this country’s ‘checks and balances’ system. Here is a full account of Marbury v. Madison from the U.S. Archives.
Today, the Supreme Court routinely hears cases that evaluate the constitutional authority of executive actions, congressional legislation, and lower court judicial decisions.
- Identify the constitutional powers of judicial branch.
- How does the Supreme Court act as a check against executive authority?
- How does the Supreme Court act as a check against legislative authority?
- Select a specific Supreme Court case from one of the following fields:
- Identify the historical circumstances of the Supreme Court case.
- Speculate as to why the Supreme Court justices decided to hear this case.
- Explain the Supreme Court’s decision.
- Explain how this Supreme Court case discussed the U.S. Constitution and/or subsequent federal and state laws, and/or lower court judicial decisions.
- How did this Supreme Court case affect the legislative, executive, and/or judicial branch?
- Evaluate the resulting impact of the Supreme Court case on U.S. society.
- Do you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court decision?
- Evaluate the resulting impact of the Supreme Court case on you.
- Why did this Supreme Court case interest you?
- How did this case affect you and society?
Marbury v. Madison (1803). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=19.