Overview

Kendall v. United States Ex Rel. Stokes


Related Overviews

separation of powers

Andrew Jackson (1767—1845) American general and Democratic statesman, 7th President of the US 1829–37

Smith Thompson (1823—1843)

writ of mandamus

 

'Kendall v. United States Ex Rel. Stokes' can also refer to...

 

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Law

GO

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

12 Pet. (37 U.S.) 524 (1838), argued 13, 19–24, 26–27 Feb. 1838, decided 12 Mar. 1838 by vote of 9 to 0; Thompson for the Court. The case originated when newly appointed postmaster general Amos Kendall refused to obey an order from the federal circuit for the District of Columbia that he honor a contract negotiated by his predecessor with the firm of Stockton and Stokes. Kendall, appointed by President Andrew Jackson to reform the Post Office, refused on the grounds that the contract was tainted with political favoritism, which it probably was. The matter was referred to Congress, which enacted a law requiring Kendall to follow the recommendations of the solicitor general of the treasury, Virgil Maxcy (who was a friend of the plaintiffs). Kendall refused again, arguing that the act of Congress was an unconstitutional infringement on the powers of the executive branch. This was the issue before the Supreme Court.

A unanimous decision, written by Justice Smith Thompson, went against Kendall holding that (1) not every officer in the executive branch was under the exclusive control of the president; (2) Congress could assign ministerial duties to such officers, and (3) such duties could be enforced by a writ of mandamus issuing from the federal circuit court. The case was significant because it resolved a conflict between the executive branch and Congress, while at the same time establishing a role for the courts in resolving such disputes. It clarified the mandamus-granting authority of federal circuit courts.

(1) not every officer in the executive branch was under the exclusive control of the president; (2) Congress could assign ministerial duties to such officers, and (3) such duties could be enforced by a writ of mandamus issuing from the federal circuit court.

R. Kent Newmyer

Subjects: Law.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.