Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 32 (1995)

Page:   Index   Previous  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  Next



Breyer, J., concurring in judgment

law"). For another thing, as Justice Powell has pointed out, the Constitution's "separation-of-powers" principles reflect, in part, the Framers' "concern that a legislature should not be able unilaterally to impose a substantial deprivation on one person." INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 962 (1983) (opinion concurring in judgment). The Framers "expressed" this principle, both in "specific provisions, such as the Bill of Attainder Clause," and in the Constitution's "general allocation of power." Ibid.; see United States v. Brown, 381 U. S. 437, 442 (1965) (Bill of Attainder Clause intended to implement the separation of powers, acting as "a general safeguard against legislative exercise of the judicial function"); Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 136 (1810) (Marshall, C. J.) ("It is the peculiar province of the legislature to prescribe general rules for the government of society; the application of those rules to individuals in society would seem to be the duty of other departments"); cf. Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516, 535-536 (1884).

Despite these two important "separation-of-powers" concerns, sometimes Congress can enact legislation that focuses upon a small group, or even a single individual. See, e. g., Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U. S. 425, 468-484 (1977); Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, 468 U. S. 841, 846-856 (1984); Brown, supra, at 453-456. Congress also sometimes passes private legislation. See Chadha, supra, at 966, n. 9 (Powell, J., concurring in judgment) ("When Congress grants particular individuals relief or benefits under its spending power, the danger of oppressive action that the separation of powers was designed to avoid is not implicated"). And, sometimes Congress can enact legislation that, as a practical matter, radically changes the effect of an individual, previously entered court decree. See Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 18 How. 421 (1856). Statutes that apply prospectively and (in part because of that prospectivity) to an open-ended class of persons, however, are more than sim-

Page:   Index   Previous  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007