The Rules: Post info about ONE Supreme Court decision, modern or historic to your lj. (Any decision, as long as it's not Roe v. Wade.) For those who see this on your f-list, take the spam to your OWN lj to spread the fun.
Marbury vs. Madison 1803
Wildly paraphrasing from any legal terminology: Basically, this very early Supreme Court Decision (14 years after the Constitution created the Court in the first place) established that the Supreme Court had the right to overturn laws if they were in violation of the Constitution.
John Adams didn't like the incoming president, Thomas Jefferson, and as a lame duck in 1801 Adams rammed through several appointments. Marbury was an Adams supporter and one of the appointees. When the new Secretary of State, James Madison, came in, he simply refused to sign off on the remaining appointments, leading to the case.
SCOTUS was in a pickle. In real terms, they had no power and desperately needed to find a way to let the current president get his way. The court dug deep into English law to come up with Judicial Review, allowing them to weigh Congressional action against the Constitution. Then, quite simply, they said that the law allowing Adams to make these appointments didn't count. Verdict for Madison (and Jefferson).
Whether it was a good decision, it was a powerful one and the precedent has been enshrined into our legal system ever since.