of the Framers of the Constitution anticipated that the Federal
judiciary would be the weakest branch of Government, the U.S.
Supreme Court has come to wield enormous power with decisions
that have reached into the lives of every citizen and resolved
some of the most dramatic confrontations in U.S. history.
The word of the Supreme Court is final. Overturning its decisions
often requires an amendment to the Constitution or a revision
of Federal law.
The power of the Supreme Court has evolved over time, through
a series of milestone court cases. One of the Court's most
fundamental powers is judicial review–the power to judge
the constitutionality of any act or law of the executive or
legislative branch. Some of the Framers expected the Supreme
Court to take on the role of determining the constitutionality
of Congress's laws, but the Constitution did not explicitly
assign it to the Court. Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 landmark
Supreme Court case, established the power of judicial review.
From the modest claim of William Marbury, who sought a low-paying
appointment as a District of Columbia Justice of the Peace,
emerged a Supreme Court decision that established one of the
cornerstones of the American constitutional system.
|Order served on
Secretary of State James Madison by the U.S. Supreme Court,
March 22, 1802 learn
| John Marshall,
oil painting (reproduction) by Rembrandt Peale, 1826 learn