Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc., 511 U.S. 298 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 92-938. Argued October 13, 1993—Decided April 26, 1994

Petitioners filed a complaint under, inter alia, 42 U. S. C. 1981, alleging that respondent, their employer, had fired them on baseless charges because of their race and because they had insisted on the same procedural protections in disciplinary proceedings that were afforded white employees. Before the trial, this Court issued Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U. S. 164, 171, holding that 1981's prohibition against racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts does not apply to conduct that occurs after the formation of a contract and that does not interfere with the right to enforce established contract obligations. The District Court relied on Patterson in dismissing petitioners' discriminatory discharge claims. While their appeal was pending, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 Act or Act) became law, 101 of which defines 1981's "make and enforce contracts" phrase to embrace all phases and incidents of the contractual relationship, including discriminatory contract terminations. The Court of Appeals ruled, among other things, that 1981 as interpreted in Patterson, not as amended by 101, governed the case.

Held: Section 101 does not apply to a case that arose before it was enacted. Pp. 303-314. (a) Landgraf v. USI Film Products, ante, p. 244, in which this Court concluded that 102 of the 1991 Act does not apply to cases arising before its enactment, requires rejection of two of petitioners' submissions in this case: their negative implication argument based on 402(a), 109(c), and 402(b), see ante, at 257-263, and their argument that Bradley v. School Bd. of Richmond, 416 U. S. 696, controls here, rather than the presumption against statutory retroactivity. Pp. 303-304. (b) The fact that 101 was enacted in response to Patterson does not supply sufficient evidence of a clear congressional intent to overcome the presumption against statutory retroactivity. Even assuming that 101 reflects disapproval of Patterson's 1981 interpretation, and that most legislators believed that the case was incorrectly decided and represented a departure from the previously prevailing understanding of 1981's reach, the Act's text does not support petitioners' argument that 101 was intended to "restore" that prior understanding as to cases arising before the Act's passage. In contrast to the 1990 civil rights

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