Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc., 511 U.S. 298, 14 (1994)

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

Opinion of the Court

had no power to enact the law in question." Id., at 192 (emphasis in original).

Petitioners also point to Freeborn v. Smith, 2 Wall. 160 (1865). There, a statute admitting Nevada to the Union had failed to provide for jurisdiction over cases arising from Nevada Territory that were pending before this Court when Nevada achieved statehood. We upheld against constitutional attack a subsequent statute explicitly curing the "accidental impediment" to our jurisdiction over such cases. See id., at 173-175.

In the case before us today, however, we do not question the power of Congress to apply its definition of the term "make and enforce contracts" to cases arising before the 1991 Act became effective, or, indeed, to those that were pending on June 15, 1989, when Patterson was decided. The question is whether Congress has manifested such an intent. Unlike the narrow error-correcting statutes at issue in Frisbie and Freeborn, 101 is plainly not the sort of provision that must be read to apply to pending cases "because a contrary reading would render it ineffective." Landgraf, ante, at 286. Section 101 is readily comprehensible, and entirely effective, even if it applies only to conduct occurring after its effective date. A restorative purpose may be relevant to whether Congress specifically intended a new statute to govern past conduct, but we do not "presume" an intent to act retroactively in such cases.11 We still require clear evidence of intent to impose the restorative statute "retroactively." Section 101, and the statute of which it is a part, does not contain such evidence.

"The principle that statutes operate only prospectively, while judicial decisions operate retrospectively, is familiar to

11 See N. Singer, Sutherland on Statutory Construction 27.04, p. 472 (5th ed. 1993) ("The usual purpose of a special interpretive statute is to correct a judicial interpretation of a prior law which the legislature considers inaccurate. Where such statutes are given any effect, the effect is prospective only").


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