How the Supreme Court Expanded Its Power Under Justice John Marshall


When John Marshall was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1801, the nation’s highest court occupied a lowly position. There was no Supreme Court Building in the newly completed capital, Washington, D.C., so the six justices heard cases in a borrowed room in the basement of the Capitol Building. Their docket averaged 10 cases a year, mostly about shipping disputes.

“Before John Marshall, the Supreme Court was kind of irrelevant,” says Joel Richard Paul, a law professor at the University of California Hastings Law School and author of Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times.


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