In 1801, when William Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus ordering Secretary of State James Madison to deliver his commission as justice of the peace, he initiated one of the most important cases in the Court's history. But why did Marbury choose the Supreme Court? Was there a lower federal court that could have granted the writ at the time? The short answer is "yes." Rather than making an unsuccessful attempt to invoke the original jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court, I have learned that he could have brought his suit in the then newly-created Circuit Court of the District of Columbia. Did Marbury know of this possibility? Would the Circuit Court have granted the requested writ of mandamus? As this essay will show, the answer to both these questions is "probably yes." That being so, the intriguing - indeed, mysterious - questions surrounding Marbury's choice of forum warrant further examination.
18 Const. Comment. 607-627 (2001)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Bloch, Susan Low, "The Marbury Mystery: Why Did William Marbury Sue in the Supreme Court?" (2001). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 42.