Why did anyone respect Marbury v. Madison?
- The court is so weak that Jefferson would ignore any ruling against him.
- The court, essentially, rules against Jefferson indirectly by giving itself the power of judicial review.
- The court has the undisputed power of judicial review.
The Court didn't rule against Jefferson. While it found that Marbury had the right to the office, it found the Congressional law which empowered the supreme court to directly rule on the case unconstitutional, thereby defining the right of the supreme court to deny congressional acts / laws on Constitutional grounds..
Marbury never got to serve in his judicial office and Jefferson's appointments stood. President Jefferson wasn't going to object to the Supreme court saying it didn't have authority to check his actions. And once Jefferson didn't object, the precedent was set. It did't matter that the court was weak in 1801, the next time the supreme court felt the need to rule over congress they had a precedent to cite, one in which the Presidency had already gone along with.
Judicial Review in the United States
After the Court exercised its power of judicial review in Marbury, it avoided striking down a federal statute during the next fifty years. The court would not do so again until Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)
Before President John Adams was to leave office, he appointed several people into government positions. William Marbury was one of them. The appointments were not delivered before the next President was sworn into office. So it was the next President, Thomas Jefferson's, responsibility to deliver the appointments. President Jefferson declined to deliver the appointments preferring to appoint his own people rather than the previous President John Adam's choices for these offices.
William Marbury and the others who were refused their appointments sued in the Supreme Court to get their appointments delivered. Marbury's argument depended on a law passed by Congress which gave the Supreme Court the authority to issue a "writ of mandate" against the Presidency, compelling Jefferson to deliver the appointments.
The Court ruled 4-0 that Marbury had the right to his appointment and that the appointment itself was unimportant, Marbury was able to assume his commission without the formal delivery of the paper, given it was signed and all formal procedures other than delivery were followed.
The Court further found that the Congressional Law was unconstitutional and congress didn't have the authority to pass a law giving the supreme court "direct" authority to issue writ's against the Presidency. That in the Constitution, the defined jurisdiction of the supreme court was limited to cases affecting offices in which states were involved.
U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
Thus any case in which the Supreme Court would issue a writs of mandate would have to start in a lower court first.
With that ruling, as you say, the court declared itself powerless in commanding the appointments from the executive, but gave itself the power to declare congressional laws unconstitutional.
the ??? would be that, Jefferson wasn't going to object to the supreme court giving him what he wanted even if tangentially, because of his own self interest. Congress was the big loser in this decision because the Supreme Court in basically granting what the President wanted, set itself above congressional decisions from then on with the Presidency as it's ally. Jefferson got what he wanted. Marbury never held a judicial office and the the precedent was set for the Supreme Court to have the power of constitutional judicial review.