Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc., 511 U.S. 298, 11 (1994)

Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

308

RIVERS v. ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC.

Opinion of the Court

amendment to 1981 "shall apply to all proceedings pending on or commenced after" the date of the Patterson decision.

The statute that was actually enacted in 1991 contains no comparable language. Instead of a reference to "restoring" pre-existing rights, its statement of purposes describes the Act's function as "expanding the scope of relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate protection to victims of discrimination." 1991 Act, 3(4), 105 Stat. 1071 (emphasis added). Consistently with that revised statement of purposes, the Act lacks any direct reference to cases arising before its enactment, or to the date of the Patterson decision. Taken by itself, the fact that 101 is framed as a gloss on 1981's original "make and enforce contracts" does not demonstrate an intent to apply the new definition to past acts. Altering statutory definitions, or adding new definitions of terms previously undefined, is a common way of amending statutes, and simply does not answer the retroactivity question. Thus, the text of the Act does not support the argument that 101 of the 1991 Act was intended to "restore" prior understandings of 1981 as to cases arising before the 1991 Act's passage.

The legislative history of the 1991 Act does not bridge the gap in the text. The statements that most strongly support such coverage are found in the debates on the 1990 bill. See n. 6, supra. Such statements are of questionable relevance to the 1991 Act, however, because the 1990 provision contained express retroactivity provisions that were omitted from the 1991 legislation. The statements relating specifically to 101 of the 1991 Act do not provide reliable evidence on whether Congress intended to "restore" a broader meaning of 1981 with respect to pending cases otherwise governed by Patterson's construction of the scope of the phrase "make and enforce contracts." 8 Thus, the fact that 101

8 The legislative history of the 1991 Act reveals conflicting views about whether 101 would "restore" or instead "enlarge" the original scope

Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007