During the Civil War
Reconstruction, McCardle, a newspaper publisher in Mississippi, published
some "incendiary" articles. He was arrested and charged with
violating a law passed by Congress against libel and impeding
Reconstruction (aka the Reconstruction Acts).
The Military Court convicted
McCardle. He appealed.
McCardle argued that the Reconstruction
Acts were an unconstitutional
violation of his rights under the 5th Amendment because he wasn't a member of the military
and shouldn't be tried in a military court.
The Mississippi Appellate
Court refused to hear the case. McCardle appealed to the US Supreme
McCardle based his appeal on
the Habeus Corpus Act of 1867 which
authorized Federal courts for the first time to issue writs of habeas
corpus whenever persons held in State custody challenged it on Federal
After the case was argued but
before an opinion was delivered, Congress repealed the Habeus Corpus
The US Supreme Court found
that the repeal of the Habeus Corpus Act meant that they did not have jurisdiction to hear McCardle's
US Supreme Court validated
congressional withdrawal of the Court's jurisdiction.
Basically, the Court found
that Congress has the power to not give jurisdiction to the Court for
Because the Court held it
lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, they left McCardle's argument about
his 5th Amendment
Since Congress withdrew
jurisdiction to hear the case, McCardle had no legal recourse to
challenge his imprisonment in Federal Court.
McCardle could have brought
the case again, basing his arguments on laws that hadn't been repealed
instead of basing them on the Habeus Corpus Act. However, the military let him go, so the
case went away.
In Marbury v. Madison, it was determined that the judiciary had the
right to say what the law is. But this case says that maybe it's only in
cases where the Congress says the judiciary has the right to say what the
The principle that the
affirmation of appellate jurisdiction implies the negation of all such
jurisdiction not affirmed having been thus established, it was an almost
necessary consequence that acts of Congress, providing for the exercise
of jurisdiction should comes to be spoken of as acts granting
jurisdiction, and not was acts making exceptions to the constitutional
grant of is.
Basically, the original
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is protected by the Constitution, but
appellate jurisdiction is solely an act of Congress, and Congress can
restrict that jurisdiction.
If you recognize the power of
mere majorities of Congress to deprive the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in
any case, you have severely broken down the concept of separation of
This is known as the
essential functions hypothesis.
If Congress wrote a law
saying that the courts couldn't hear any cases involving congressmen
taking bribes, would that be constitutional?