School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic C. Protecting Rights and Maintaining Order

Indicator 1. Examine the impact of governmental decisions on individual rights and responsibilities in the United States

Objective c. Explain the significance of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison which established judicial review

As a full class, read a simple secondary account of the events leading to the Supreme Court’s consideration of William Marbury’s request for a writ of mandamus. As the class reads the account, have students complete sequence chains outlining the facts of the case in chronological order. After this is completed, be sure the students can summarize the most important details from the case facts, particularly focusing on the role of the Judiciary Act of 1789, since this is the legislation that was overturned by the Court’s ruling.

Distribute blank forms for legal briefs, which require students to categorize the most important components of judicial cases (a more detailed explanation can be found under the heading “Student Briefs” at Based on the previous reading activity and discussion, have the students record the facts of the Marbury case in the appropriate space on the brief form. Then, announce to the class that next they will focus on the question of law (or issues of the case), the Court’s decision, and its long term importance. In full class discussion, see if the students can identify the central question, or issue, the Court addressed in deciding Marbury’s case (Does the Judiciary Act of 1789 give the Supreme Court the authority to issue a writ of mandamus requiring James Madison to deliver William Marbury’s commission to become a justice of the peace?). Have the students record this question (or issue) on their case brief forms.

Divide the class into small groups of 2-4 students. Distribute key excerpts from Chief Justice Marshall’s ruling, one per group, along with reading guides for each separate excerpt. As needed, provide students with transcripts of the excerpts, if possible right next to Marshall’s actual words from the ruling. Direct students to complete their reading guides summarizing their assigned excerpt. Be sure that students do NOT record any information on their case brief forms during this activity. Have each group share details from their assigned excerpts in full class discussion. When groups are finished, see if members of the class can piece together the most important points from Marshall’s reasoning, and then record this information on their case briefs.

Resources for Objective 1.C.1.c:
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