The facts that surrounded Marbury’s case were very complex. To begin with, following the election of 1800; the emergent Democratic-Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson won the election against the John Adam’s Federalist Party. This defeat by Thomas Jefferson created an atmosphere of partisan anxiety for the lame duck Federalists2. As Adams became close to completing his term in office, he appointed several justice of peace for the District of Columbia who were approved by the Senate and received the president’s approval. The President’s signature was affixed with the government’s official seal.
The commissions were not delivered; nonetheless, upon President Jefferson’s assumption of office by March 5, 1801, he ordered his Secretary of State by the name of James Madison, not to deliver the commissions. One of the appointees called William Marbury, and then filed a petition to the Supreme Court for a legal order or a writ of mandamus that aimed at compelling Madison to show the reasons behind him not being eligible to receive his commission.
Chief Justice Marshall was called upon to solve the case, and was to respond to three questions. One of the questions was to determine whether Marbury has a right to writ for which he petitioned. The second one was whether the U.S. laws permitted the court to grant Marbury such a legal order. The third question was, if they did, could such a writ be supplied by the Supreme Court3?
Responding to the first question, Marshal made a ruling that stated that Marbury had been legitimately appointed in accordance to the law, and thus, had a right to the writ. He further stated that since Marbury had a legal right to his commission and the law was to award him a remedy. The Chief Justice went ahead and indicated that it was the particular obligation of the courts to protect