Chief Justice John Roberts welcomed friends of The John Marshall Foundation (JMF) to the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, March 9, to mark the 215th anniversary of Marshall’s appointment as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States.
The event was co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society and featured a keynote lecture by Jeffrey Rosen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The event was chaired by JMF board member Cheryl Ragsdale.
Chief Justice Roberts discussed Marshall’s enduring imprint on America, noting, “It was a stone’s throw from here that Marshall solidified the role of this Court in administering the Constitution,” referring to Marshall’s landmark decision in Marbury v. Madison, 1803, arguably the most important case in Supreme Court history and the first to apply the principle of “judicial review,” the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution. The decision, which was made from a boarding house lobby, played a key role in making the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government on par with Congress and the Executive Branch. As an interesting footnote, the Court convened at the boarding house to save steps for Justice Samuel Chase, who suffered gout at the time. The Supreme Court normally met in the basement of the U.S. Capitol until 100 years after Marshall’s death.
JMF president Caroline Smith Parkinson presented Justice Roberts with a bottle of Madeira, Marshall’s favorite drink. Roberts noted that it was customary to end long court sessions with a toast. Marshall presided over this ritual with the “rule” that the judges would only raise a glass if it were raining. If the weather report came back with clear skies, Marshall would proclaim, “Our country is so vast, it must be raining somewhere” and would proceed to uncork the Madeira.
Rosen explored Marshall’s foundational influence by examining his relationship with Thomas Jefferson and Marshall’s deft navigation of their opposing views and remarkable ability to reach consensus on the bench. Rosen compared this relationship to that of later Justices Louis Brandeis, considered Jefferson’s “greatest philosophical heir,” and William H. Taft, who “idealized Marshall.” Both the Marshall and Taft courts were known for reaching consensus, despite the vast divide of viewpoints represented. Rosen argued that unanimity on the court was Marshall’s most enduring legacy.
For complete coverage of the Mach 9, event, visit: http://www.c-span.org/Category: News & Headlines