Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc., 511 U.S. 298, 10 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 298 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

1981. We may even assume that many or even most legislators believed that Patterson was not only incorrectly decided but also represented a departure from the previously prevailing understanding of the reach of 1981. Those assumptions would readily explain why Congress might have wanted to legislate retroactively, thereby providing relief for the persons it believed had been wrongfully denied a 1981 remedy. Even on those assumptions, however, we cannot find in the 1991 Act any clear expression of congressional intent to reach cases that arose before its enactment.

The 1990 civil rights bill that was vetoed by the President contained an amendment to 1981, identical to 101 of the 1991 Act, that assuredly would have applied to pending cases. See Civil Rights Act of 1990, S. 2104, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., 12 (1990). See also Landgraf, ante, at 255-256, n. 8. In its statement of purposes, the bill unambiguously declared that it was intended to "respond to the Supreme Court's recent decisions by restoring the civil rights protections that were dramatically limited by those decisions," S. 2104, 2(b)(1) (emphasis added), and the section responding to Patterson was entitled "Restoring Prohibition Against All Racial Discrimination in the Making and Enforcement of Contracts." Id., 12 (emphasis added).7 More directly, 15(a)(6) of the 1990 bill expressly provided that the

7 We do not suggest that Congress' use of the word "restore" necessarily bespeaks an intent to restore retroactively. For example, Congress might, in response to a judicial decision that construed a criminal statute narrowly, amend the legislation to broaden its scope; the preamble or legislative history of the amendment might state that it was intended to "restore" the statute to its originally intended scope. In such a situation, there would be no need to read Congress' use of the word "restore" as an attempt to circumvent the Ex Post Facto Clause. Instead, "to restore" might sensibly be read as meaning "to correct, from now on." The 1990 bill did not suffer from such ambiguity, however, for it contained other provisions that made pellucidly clear that Congress contemplated the broader, retroactive kind of "restoration."


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