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Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee

Citation. 14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 304, 4 L.Ed. 97 (1816).

Brief Fact Summary.

Martin, a British citizen, inherited Virginia land. His land was granted to someone else, pursuant to a Virginia law allowing confiscation of lands owned by British citizens. The Virginia Court of Appeals did not honor the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the land rightfully belonged to Martin.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has jurisdiction and authority over state courts in matters of federal law.


Lord Fairfax, a Virginia citizen, willed his Virginia land to his nephew, Martin, a British citizen. In 1789, Virginia granted Martin’s land to Hunter, pursuant to state laws allowing confiscation of lands owned by British citizens. The Virginia Court of Appeals (Virginia’s highest court) ruled in favor of Hunter, and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision. However, the Virginia Court of Appeals refused to obey the Supreme Court’s mandate.


Is Martin entitled to the Virginia land willed to him by his uncle?


The U.S. Constitution gives appellate jurisdiction to the U.S. Supreme Court in cases where it lacks original jurisdiction. Questions of federal law are within the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has the authority to revise the proceedings of executive, legislative, and judicial authorities of the state if they are found to be contrary to the constitution. The Court reasons that an important basis for this decision is the uniformity of decisions in the U.S. on all subjects within the purview of the Constitution.

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