Marshall v. Madison: The Supreme Court and Original Intent, 1803-35

CRIMINAL JUSTICE ETHICS 32.1 (2013): 20-50

Abstract: The Framers understood the Constitution to be the fundamental expression of the rule of law over against the arbitrary, intemperate, and unjust rule of men that all too frequently existed in the political world, unfortunately both democratic as well as monarchical. Accordingly, the rule of law requires a well functioning political and legal system that includes legislative checks and balances, the separation of power between the President and Congress, an independent judiciary, federalism, etc. What happens when this Madisonian constitutional system, designed to express the deliberate sense of the community, runs into a Judicial branch that, in effect, claims we live under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what we say it is. Must the Judiciary itself be subject to the rule of law, and the decisions of a constitutional majority, or does their independence extend to being independent of the constraints of the rule of law and, thus, decent majority rule? How did the original John Marshall Court answer these questions, and what light do the leading cases and controversies shed on the relationship between the Marshall Court and the Madisonian System? Are we facing a situation of Marshall v. Madison?