1 minute read

Eakin v. Raub


As an historical matter, the actual decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Eakin v. Raub is of little importance. Although the case involved a major issue--the power of the court to declare acts contrary to the state constitution void--the two justices in the majority gave this issue short shrift. However, Justice Gibson's dissenting opinion is widely regarded as being the most effective refutation of the theory of judicial review, and it is this dissenting opinion which makes Eakin noteworthy.

In 1803, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Marbury v. Madison, almost universally regarded as the most important court decision in American history. In Marbury, Chief Justice John Marshall established the theory of judicial review as a matter of federal law, concluding that the Supreme Court has the power to review laws enacted by Congress and declare legislative acts which violate the U.S. Constitution void, even though the judiciary is granted no such express power in the Constitution. While today the power of judicial review is accepted unquestioningly, such was not always the case. Indeed, after the Court's decision in Marbury such eminent leaders as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all expressed doubt about the validity of judicial review and the power of the courts to declare legislative acts void. In 1825, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Eakin v. Raub, accepted Justice Marshall's position in Marbury as applied to the power of the state courts to declare legislative acts transgressing the state constitution void.

The facts of Eakin, and the ultimate issue in that case from the parties' perspectives, are relatively uninteresting and of little import. Furthermore, the opinion of Chief Justice Tilghman, accepting Chief Justice Marshall's view of judicial review, adds little to the historical support for the power of judicial review. Much more important, however, was the dissenting opinion of Justice John Gibson, which is widely regarded as the most effective attack on Chief Justice Marshall's Marbury opinion and his theory of judicial review ever authored. In an opinion often cited by opponents of the theory of judicial review, Justice Gibson attempted, and in many respects succeeded, to offer a point-by-point refutation of Marshall's decision.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832Eakin v. Raub - Significance, Marshall V. Gibson: Head To Head, Further Readings