Wednesday, February 4, 2009

john marshall sworn in as chief justice of the supreme court 208 years ago today: february 4, 1801

208 years ago today, february 4, 1801, john marshall took the oath of office and became the 4th chief justice of the supreme court of the united states. he would go on to serve in that capacity for the next 34 years - becoming the longest serving chief justice in supreme court history.

chief justice marshall (also referred to as the "great chief justice") wrote a number of significant opinions during that long tenure. but the one he will always be remembered for, and first year law students still pour over during legal process, is marbury v. madison. that improbable decision jump-started the doctrine of judicial review and established the supreme court as a co-equal branch of the federal government.

here is the quote that upset the apple cart:

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must, of necessity, expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the Courts must decide on the operation of each."

so why the post on supreme court history? well, this semester i teach constitutional law. and, tomorrow night, the course material is marbury v. madison and the doctrine of judicial review!

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