Government & The State


Court Cases that Changed


Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Facts of the Case

• Justice William Marbury was appointed to a federal judge position in the last few hours of John Adam’s presidency

• The post (job had been created under the

Judiciary Act) (an act of Congress)

• B/c it was a last minute appointment,

Marbury was never actually rewarded his job in the Jefferson administration

• He sues

Marbury v. Madison (1803)


Partly in order to avoid showdown with

Jefferson, court rules in favor of Madison

(Jefferson’s rep in the case)

, stating that Judiciary

Act of 1789, which gave Marbury his appointment in the first place, was unconstitutional to start with

 Judiciary Act of 1789 was an act of


 He does not receive his appointment

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

So What?

Despite backing down to Jefferson, Court gains powerful tool – Judicial Review

 Court now has authority to rule whether or not acts of the government are constitutional.

 A law passed by Congress can be unconstitutional or an act or order of the President can, be as well.

 Brilliant!

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

Facts of the case:

• 1n 1816, Congress chartered (started) the

Second Bank of the U.S.

• A few yrs later the state of MD passed a law that taxed the bank

• James McCulloch, the teller of the

Baltimore branch of the bank, refused to pay the tax

• Maryland sues him

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)


Court ruled that Congress (part of the central gov’t) did have the authority to charter a bank – via their authority to collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce & raise army/navy

Federal Government is supreme and states could not interfere;

 taxing the bank was interference.

 a state cannot tax a federal institution

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

So What:

Established doctrine of implied powers, providing

Congress with more flexibility to enact legislation

(legislation which established the Bank in the first place).

Reaffirmed supremacy of Federal government.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

Facts of the Case:

• A New York state law gave two individuals the exclusive right to operate steamboats on waters within state jurisdiction. Laws like this one were duplicated elsewhere which led to friction as some states would require foreign (out-of-state) boats to pay substantial fees for navigation privileges. In this case a steamboat owner who did business between New York and New

Jersey challenged the monopoly that New York had granted, which forced him to obtain a special operating permit from the state to navigate on its waters.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)


The Court ruled the monopoly unconstitutional.

Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce – along coast or on waterways between states.

 States could regulate trade ONLY within their own borders.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

So What?

Gave Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce.

Interstate commerce clause (along with Necessary

& Proper Clause) are the major vehicle for expanding federal power.

Moral of the Day!

The Constitution says….

…what the Supreme Court says it says.

(until they change what they say it says)

Cohens v. Virginia (1821)

So What?

Reasserted federal judicial authority over state courts.

Supreme Court argued that when states ratified the

Constitution, they gave up some sovereignty to federal courts.

Fletcher v. Peck (1810)


Court held that since the estate had been legally

"passed into the hands of a purchaser for a valuable consideration," the Georgia legislature could not take away the land or invalidate the contract. The Court held that laws annulling contracts or grants made by previous legislative acts were constitutionally impermissible – regardless of intention when passed.

Fletcher v. Peck (1810)

So What?

1st: protected contracts from state interference.

2nd: Court could overturn state laws that opposed specific provisions of the Constitution Contract

Clause: Art I, sect 10, clause 1. It states: “ No

State shall…pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of


Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816)

So What?

Court could accept appeals from state courts that involve federal laws or treaties.

More importantly, it asserted the Supreme Court’s sovereignty over state courts, rejecting VA’s claim that they were equal sovereigns.

Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816)


VA Supreme Court upheld the confiscation, not on the grounds that VA law was superior to US treaties, but because it argued that its own interpretation of the treaty revealed that the treaty did not, in fact, cover the dispute. The US Supreme Court disagreed, and remanded the case back to VA S.C., VA argued that the

US S.C. did not have authority over cases originating in state court.

The US S.C. reversed VA’s decision on appeal, ruling that questions of federal law were within its jurisdiction, and thereby establishing supremacy in matters of constitutional interpretation.

Cohens v. Virginia (1821)


Court upheld conviction of Cohen brothers.

The larger issue: actually reviewing state court cases. The S.C. claimed full appellate jurisdiction over any case tried before a state court. VA decided that this was unacceptable & declared the decision the SC made null & void, even though it had upheld the previous conviction, because VA felt the ruling limited states' rights.

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)