Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 9 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 211 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

cide them, subject to review only by superior courts in the Article III hierarchy—with an understanding, in short, that "a judgment conclusively resolves the case" because "a 'judicial Power' is one to render dispositive judgments." East-erbrook, Presidential Review, 40 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 905, 926 (1990). By retroactively commanding the federal courts to reopen final judgments, Congress has violated this fundamental principle.


The Framers of our Constitution lived among the ruins of a system of intermingled legislative and judicial powers, which had been prevalent in the colonies long before the Revolution, and which after the Revolution had produced factional strife and partisan oppression. In the 17th and 18th centuries colonial assemblies and legislatures functioned as courts of equity of last resort, hearing original actions or providing appellate review of judicial judgments. G. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, pp. 154-155 (1969). Often, however, they chose to correct the judicial process through special bills or other enacted legislation. It was common for such legislation not to prescribe a resolution of the dispute, but rather simply to set aside the judgment and order a new trial or appeal. M. Clarke, Parliamentary Privilege in the American Colonies 49-51 (1943). See, e. g., Judicial Action by the Provincial Legislature of Massachusetts, 15 Harv. L. Rev. 208 (1902) (collecting documents from 1708-1709); 5 Laws of New Hampshire, Including Public and Private Acts, Resolves, Votes, Etc., 1784-1792 (Metcalf ed. 1916). Thus, as described in our discussion of Hayburn's Case, supra, at 218, such legislation bears not on the problem of interbranch review but on the problem of finality of judicial judgments.

The vigorous, indeed often radical, populism of the revolutionary legislatures and assemblies increased the frequency of legislative correction of judgments. Wood, supra, at 155- 156, 407-408. See also INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 961


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