Marbury v. Madison

PETITIONER:William Marbury
RESPONDENT:James Madison, Secretary of State
LOCATION: The White House

DECIDED BY: Marshall Court (1801-1804)

ARGUED: Feb 11, 1803
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1803

Charles Lee – for Marbury
Levi Lincoln, Sr. – for Madison

Facts of the case

In the last days of President John Adams’ presidency, he nominated a number of people to serve as justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. The Senate confirmed the nominations, and the commissions were prepared. President Adams’ Secretary of State, John Marshall, did not deliver all of the commissions before President Thomas Jefferson took office. President Jefferson then ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, not to deliver the commissions. The plaintiffs, men whose commissions were not delivered, sued Madison in the Supreme Court and argued that, in refusing to deliver the commissions, the Secretary of State was neglecting his Constitutional duty.


(1) Do the plaintiffs have a right to receive their commissions?

(2) Can they sue for their commissions in court?

(3) Does the Supreme Court have the authority to order the delivery of their commissions?