When Morrison died, his will
stated that Mr. and Mrs. Bull were to be the beneficiaries.
Due to some problems with the
will, the Bulls were denied an inheritance by a Connecticut Probate Court.
Instead, the Court gave the
money to a guy named Calder.
The Bulls attempted to appeal
the decision more than a year and a half later, but they found that under
State law, the Statute of Limitations for filing an appeal was 18 months,
so they lost their chance to appeal.
Undaunted, the Bulls persuaded
the Connecticut legislature to change the law, which enabled them to
successfully appeal the case.
On appeal, the Court reversed
and gave the inheritance to the Bulls. Calder appealed.
Calder argued that the
Connecticut legislation a violation of Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, which prohibits ex
post facto laws.
Ex post facto means that the act took place before the law
changed, and so the act can't be judged by the new law.
In this case, Calder argued
that the principle of ex post facto
meant that even if Connecticut changed the Statute of Limitations, the
courts couldn't retroactively apply it to the Bull's case.
The US Supreme Court found for
US Supreme Court found that
the Connecticut legislation was not an ex post facto law.
The Court distinguished
criminal rights from private rights, arguing that restrictions against ex
post facto laws were not designed to
protect citizens' contract rights.
The Court found 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.