Marbury v. Madison

Federal courts have assumed the power of judicial review, the right to determine the constitutional legality of state and federal laws, congressional and presidential acts, and lower-court rulings. Likewise, each state court has assumed the power to determine the legality of legislative and gubernatorial decisions within its own borders.

The power of judicial review is not codified in the Constitution, however. Many state supreme courts had already assumed this power by the time the Constitution was ratified in 1789, and Chief Justice John Marshall set a precedent for federal judicial review in the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison. Federal courts use their power of judicial review sparingly, primarily because they have no means of enforcing their decisions. Nevertheless, judicial review is the most significant power of the judiciary branch.


Statutes are laws passed by Congress and states legislatures. Congress passed an unprecedented number of statutes in the twentieth century, covering such issues as environmental regulation, criminal law, and contracts. State governments can also pass statues according to the rules of their own constitutions. Some government agencies can issue administrative regulations, which have the force of law.

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