In this case and one in 1816, the U.S. Supreme Court engaged in a constitutional power struggle with the Virginia supreme court over seized Loyalist property and the state’s treaty obligations.

Justice Joseph StoryStory, Joseph;Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee[Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee] wrote the opinion for himself and only two other justices because three others, Chief Justice John Marshall and Justices Bushrod Washington and Thomas Todd, were not present. Justice William Johnson dissented. The most obvious issue was whether Virginia could pass a law upholding the seizure of property from Tory Loyalists during the Revolutionary War and whether Virginia had to fulfill its obligations under the controversial 1794 Jay Treaty. The Virginia supreme court of appeals upheld the state’s seizure of property from British Loyalists and Virginia’s position on its treaty obligations. Story ruled in favor of the Loyalist claim, but the authority of the Supreme Court was under attack partly because of the narrowness of the Court’s majority. Virginia refused to accept the Court’s authority and declared section 25 of the 1789 Judiciary ActJudiciary Act of 1789;section 25 to be unconstitutional. The case returned to the Court as Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee.Supremacy, federal;Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee[Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee]


Judiciary Act of 1789

Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee

States’ rights and state sovereignty