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Marbury vs. Madison, 5 US 137
Does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus?
On the last day in office President John Adams names forty-two justices of the peace and sixteen new circuit court justices for the District of Columbia under the Organic Law, to take control of the federal judiciary before the Thomas Jefferson took office.The commission was signed by President Adams and sealed by acting Secretary of State, John Marshall but they wenot delivered before the expiration of Adam’s term as President. When the new President Thomas Jefferson took office he refused to honor the commissions, claiming that they were invalid because they have not been delivered before the end of Adam’s term as president. William Marbury was one of the intended recipient of an appointment as justice of the peace. Marbury directly went tothe supreme court to file his complaint, refusing for a writ of Mandamus to compel Jefferson’s Secretary James Madisonto deliver the commissions. At that time The Judiciary Act 1789 had granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to issue writs of Mandamus toany courts appointed or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States
RATIO DECIDENDI: No. The Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus. To enable this court then to issue a mandamus, it must be shown to be an exercise of appellate jurisdiction, or to be necessary to enable them to exercise appellate jurisdiction. It is the essential criterion of appellate jurisdiction that it revises and corrects the proceedings in a cause already instituted, and does not create that case. Although, therefore, a mandamus may be directed to courts, yet to issue such a writ to an officer for the delivery of a paper is, in effect, the same as to sustain an original action for that paper, and is therefore a matter of original jurisdiction.