Why Nine Unelected Supreme Court Judges Get All the Power: The Case of Marbury v. Madison

Americans often bemoan the fact that the nine unelected justices of the Supreme Court of the United States have so much power. The justices overturn laws passed by the people. They decide what our rights mean and whether they will be protected. They even sometimes choose who will be president. How did this come to be? One important answer to that question lies in the seminal 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison. Risa Goluboff, Dean of the School of Law, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, and Professor of History, will walk the audience through the case step by step—just as she does with her first-year law students—to reveal that what seems rather dry and arcane legalese is anything but. A result of the shenanigans that followed the contentious presidential election of 1800, Marbury simultaneously offers a tale of political intrigue, a paragon of judicial brilliance, and an explanation for the enormous power of the modern Supreme Court.

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