Case Topics: Judicial Review, Federalism

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. — Chief Justice John Marshall

At the end of President John Adams’ term, his Secretary of State failed to deliver documents commissioning William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. Once President Thomas Jefferson was sworn in, in order to keep members of the opposing political party from taking office, he told James Madison, his Secretary of State, to not deliver the documents to Marbury. Marbury then sued James Madison asking the Supreme Court to issue a writ requiring him to deliver the documents necessary to officially make Marbury Justice of the Peace. The Marbury v. Madison decision resulted in establishment of the concept of judicial review.

About the materials

These materials were developed for students of various skill levels, and teachers should choose the level that works best for their students. Answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities and can be found in the "Answers & Differentiation Ideas" tab under each case.

Background summary and questions to consider (by reading level)

Important vocabulary (by reading level)

Legal concepts

  • Federalism
  • Seperation of Powers & Checks and Balances
  • Judicial review

Other useful background information

Activities*

The Case

After The Case

* See the "Answers & Differentiation Ideas" tab for access to answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities.


Teaching strategies used


Planning time and activities

If you have one day . . .

If you have two days . . .

If you have three days . . .

  • Complete all activities listed for the first two days.
  • On the third day, have students predict how different individuals, such as Republicans, may have reacted to the outcome. Complete the Thomas Jefferson's Reaction activity.
  • Wrap up the discussion with So, What's the Big Idea??? This could also be done for homework or used in an assessment.

If you have four days . . .

For select case materials and activities, Street Law provides answers and suggestions for differentiation.

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