Thomas jefferson defeated john adams in the 1800 presidential election. Before jefferson took office on march 4, 1801, adams and congress passed the judiciary act of. 1801, creating new courts, adding judges, and giving presidents more control over appointment. The act was essentially an attempt by adams and his party to frustrate his successor, as he used the act to appoint 16 new circuit judges and 42 new justices of the peace. The appointees were approved by the senate, but they would not be valid until their commissions were delivered by the secretary of state. William marbury had been appointed justice of the peace in the district of columbia, but his commission was not delivered. Marbury petitioned the supreme court to compel the new secretary of state, james madison, to deliver the documents. Marbury, joined by three other similarly situated appointees, petitioned for a writ of mandamus compelling the delivery of the commissions: constitutional questions.