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POL 120- The Bureaucracy/Courts

Aug 21, 2023

The Bureaucracy/Courts

Discuss the concept of National Judicial Review established in Marbury v. Madison about how the Supreme Court reviews cases. Please either make a case for judicial activism or judicial restraint in your discussion and your replies. Also, did these rulings expand or decrease the Federal Bureaucracy and give one example.

The Bureaucracy/Courts

Marbury v. Madison is considered a landmark case in judicial history, as its rulings established the principle of Judicial Review. The principle emphasized that the Federal Courts have the authority to declare executive and legislative acts as unconstitutional. The case dealt with Marbury legally suing the Secretary of State of that time, Madison to obtain his commission.

The case initially started as a way for the outgoing President John Adams to establish his supporters in administrative positions. To do so, he employed his supporters like William Marbury in the position of the Justice of Peace in the last two days of his presidency. To keep a semblance of the authority that was rightfully taken away from the President, this employment was done, making the wrong use of the law (Nelson, p.40). The incoming President Thomas Jefferson understood this technique and instructed his Secretary of the State to not give many of such ‘employed’ individuals their commissions.

By the law passed by Congress, the Courts had jurisdiction over such cases and could have legally instructed Madison to provide Marbury with the commission. Seeing the situation at hand the Court chose not to exercise the intervention and instead declared the act as unconstitutional. They declared the act unconstitutional as according to them it expanded the horizons of the jurisdiction from the initial definition written in the Constitution. They invalidated the act showing that Courts can strike off a law they deem as not adhering to the principles laid out in the Constitution. This became the first instance of Courts applying the concept of judicial review.

The action committed by the Court here was Judicial Activism. In this case, for the sake of fairness, the Supreme Court went beyond the principles of a particular act for the sake of society. This is a valid practice, as Congress in many instances is capable of making policies unsuitable for every situation. The courts should keep the situation in hand, in their consideration before making any decision. The precedent might not always be adequate and therefore the judges should make decisions on their views when the situation demands. One of the biggest proponents of Judicial Activism is that the interpretation of law must transform with the transforming times (deButts, p.22). Judicial Activism is a great tool to safeguard the rights of minorities, as lawmakers often cater to the majority and compromise the minorities. Oftentimes the laws are manipulated to benefit selfish interests as evident in the Marbury v. Madison case. Judicial Activism also helps to combat situations like that.

The ruling enhanced the prospect of Federal Bureaucracy. The ruling established concepts like Judicial Review and Judicial Activism. Hence the whimsical and selfish nature of elected officials in terms of law-making came under check. Hence, the scope and authority of Federal Bureaucracy greatly increased.  Brown v. Board of Education is a primary example of an instance where the authority of Federal Bureaucracy came into play. The ‘separate but equal’ law was deemed unconstitutional as the Federal Judiciary found it dated, unethical, and unfair. Therefore, they struck down that law and banned segregation. Hence, they overpowered the Executive Branch.

Reference List

Nelson, William E. Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review, Revised and Expanded. University Press of Kansas, 2018.

deButts, Daniel R. “A Game Theoretic Analysis of Marbury v Madison: The Origins of Judicial Review.” James Blair Historical Review 9.2 (2019): 2. 

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