Examines the creation of the court and follows it through the brink of the Civil War, paying particular attention to the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court--John Marshall and to his successor, Roger Taney. Marshall presided over one of the most famous cases before the court, while Taney presided over one of the most infamous. In Marbury v. Madison, Marshall found in an obscure case involving an unsigned judicial appointment the opportunity to assert the court's most important power: the right of judicial review. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, however, Taney, the next chief justice, exercised that same power against the national government--to protect slavery. "It was a disaster," says James Simon, law professor, dean emeritus, New York Law School. "It was the worst opinion ever written in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States."
This film fit nicely into the Virginia Standards of Learning for Virginia and United States History. The program segued well into a writing assignment about John Marshall's expansion of the powers of the federal judiciary.