CALDER v. BULL

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Case Basics
Petitioner 
Calder
Respondent 
Bull
Opinion 
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Bull, the stated beneficiaries of the will of Norman Morrison, were denied an inheritance by a Connecticut probate court. When the Bulls attempted to appeal the decision more than a year and a half later, they found that a state law prohibited appeals not made within 18 months of the original ruling. The Bulls persuaded the Connecticut legislature to change the restriction, which enabled them to successfully appeal the case. Calder, the initial inheritor of Morrison's estate, took the case to the Supreme Court.

Question 

Was the Connecticut legislation a violation of Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution, which prohibits ex post facto laws?

Conclusion 

In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the legislation was not an ex post facto law. The Court drew a distinction between criminal rights and "private rights," arguing that restrictions against ex post facto laws were not designed to protect citizens' contract rights. Justice Chase noted that while all ex post facto laws are retrospective, all retrospective laws are not necessarily ex post facto. Even "vested" property rights are subject to retroactive laws.

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CALDER v. BULL. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1798/1798_0>.
CALDER v. BULL, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1798/1798_0 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"CALDER v. BULL," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1798/1798_0.