- NAME: John Marshall
- OCCUPATION: Supreme Court Justice, Political Leader
- BIRTH DATE: September 24, 1755
- DEATH DATE: July 06, 1835
- EDUCATION: Campbell Academy, College of William & Mary
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Fauquier County (near Germantown), Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- AKA: Chief Justice John Marshall
- AKA: Justice John Marshall
Best Known For
John Marshall became the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1801. He is largely responsible for establishing the Supreme Court's role in federal government.
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Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Supreme Court lacked the power to make Madison hand over the commission, although he thought that Marbury had the right to have it. In the process, Marshall determined that Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789—authorizing the Supreme Court to issue writs to government officials—was unconstitutional. Additionally, he concluded that all laws conflicting with the Constitution should be from then on rendered "null and void." In so doing,
Marshall instituted the process of judicial review and, subsequently, positioned the judicial branch as equal to its partners in the American government: the legislative and executive branches.
In 1807, Marshall was involved in another high-profile case when President Thomas Jefferson charged Vice President Aaron Burr with treason. To Jefferson's chagrin, Marshall ruled that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to prove treason, and charged Burr with a high misdemeanor instead. Marshall set Burr's bail at $10,000. The high misdemeanor case was later sent to a jury, who, based on new evidence, found Burr not guilty.
McCulloch v. Maryland, in 1819, was another of Marshall's notable cases. State banks resented the competition of a new national bank that President Madison had opened in 1816. The State of Maryland imposed a tax on the national bank, which the bank refused to pay. Maryland claimed that nothing in the Constitution gave the federal government the right to open a national bank. However, Marshall ruled in the bank's favor, stating that although the Constitution did not explicitly grant the federal government the right to open the bank, the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution did. The bank was spared, and Maryland was not permitted to charge a tax.
In 1821, Marshall presided over Cohens v. Virginia, in which the Cohen brothers, who sold Washington, D.C. lottery tickets in Virginia, appealed their conviction of having violated Virginia law. The Cohens argued that starting a lottery was a right under federal law; the Virginia state court ruled that when a decision came down to state versus federal law, state law overruled. Marshall supported Virginia's conviction, permitting the state to fine the Cohens. He ultimately decided that the Supreme Court was entitled to review state cases, and that it was the Supreme Court's responsibility to handle all cases posing questions about the Constitution. Considered a historically pivotal case, Cohens v. Virginia helped establish parameters for conflicting local and state laws.
John Marshall proudly served on the Supreme Court until his death, on July 6, 1835, at age 79, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Liberty Bell was rung during his funeral procession (according to some sources, this was when the bell cracked, never to be rung again). Marshall was buried at the Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, next to his wife, Mary Willis Ambler. The nation mourned his passing.
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The Supreme Court has presided over landmark cases that have changed the history of the United States. At times, the judges themselves have been the history makers, as in the case of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Here’s a look at the famous judges who have served on the United States' highest court.
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