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Court Versus Congress Since Marbury

May 2024
1min read

“In some 81 instances since this Court was established, it has determined that congressional action exceeded the bounds of the Constitution.” Thus wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1958, in a decision justifying an eighty-second such instance. An eighty-third, by Warren’s count, occurred this past February, when the Supreme Court struck down legislation revoking the citizenship of Americans who stayed out of the country to avoid the draft. Among other cases in which the Court, relying upon the precedent established in Marbury v. Madison , has rejected congressional legislation have been these:

Dred Scott Case, 1857, the first nullification since Marbury, declaring the Missouri Compromise to have been invalid.

First Legal Tender Case, 1870, striking down a provision making legal tender of greenbacks printed to finance the Civil War. The Court, with two new justices, reversed itself the following year.

Income Tax Case, 1895, in which a federal income tax was held to be unconstitutional. The Sixteenth Amendment, ratified eighteen years later, was drawn up to get around the Court’s ruling.

Child Labor Case, 1918, holding Congress powerless to prevent the sale across state lines of goods made by under-age workers.

New Deal Cases, including those invalidating the National Industrial Recovery Act (1935), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1936), and the Bituminous Coal Act (1936).

Military Jurisdiction Cases, 1955 and 1957, greatly restricting Congress’s granting of jurisdiction over certain civilians to military courts.

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