Rutherford v. M'Faddon

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The Ohio Supreme Court case of Rutherford v. M'Faddon upheld the doctrine of judicial review of acts of the legislature, at the state level.

In 1806, Calvin Pease, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the Third Circuit, declared a section of an Ohio law in violation of the Ohio Constitution of 1803. The Ohio law permitted justices of the peace to oversee legal disputes involving property or money in excess of twenty dollars. Pease declared that the Constitution promised trial by jury and that the Ohio law was a clear violation of that guarantee. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Huntington and George Tod sustained Pease's decision in the case Rutherford v. M'Faddon in 1807.

At the heart of this case was the question of the courts' ability to declare laws unconstitutional. The legislature had no desire to relinquish any power to the judiciary. To weaken the judicial branch, the legislature attempted to impeach both Tod and Pease. The legislature acquitted both men of all crimes by a single vote. For the time being, Ohio courts had the power to review legislative decisions. The Ohio legislature, however, would continue to try to establish itself as the dominant force in state government at the expense of the judicial branch.

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