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Martin v. Hunter's Lessee

Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, case decided in 1816 by the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1779 to 1785, Virginia passed a series of laws by which the state confiscated all lands owned by foreigners. David Hunter was granted 800 acres of confiscated lands that had been willed to Denny Martin Fairfax, a British subject. Fairfax brought suit against Hunter for return of the land. On Fairfax's death the suit was taken over by his heir, Philip Martin. Martin argued that Fairfax's ownership had been protected by treaties between the United States and Great Britain guaranteeing British subjects the right to hold land in America. The Virginia court of appeals upheld the grant to Hunter, but on appeal the U.S. Supreme Court voided the grant (1813). The Virginia court refused to obey the Supreme Court ruling, declaring that it had no right to review the decisions of state courts under the U.S. Constitution. When the case again came before the Supreme Court, Justice Story ruled that section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which granted the U.S. Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over state courts in certain situations (as in this case, where a state court denied the validity of a federal statute), was constitutional. His decision affirmed the Supreme Court's right to review state court decisions.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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