Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 33 (1995)

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

Breyer, J., concurring in judgment

ply an effort to apply, person by person, a previously enacted law, or to single out for oppressive treatment one, or a handful, of particular individuals. Thus, it seems to me, if Congress enacted legislation that reopened an otherwise closed judgment but in a way that mitigated some of the here relevant "separation-of-powers" concerns, by also providing some of the assurances against "singling out" that ordinary legislative activity normally provides—say, prospectivity and general applicability—we might have a different case. Cf. Brown, supra, at 461 ("Congress must accomplish [its desired] results by rules of general applicability. It cannot specify the people upon whom the sanction it prescribes is to be levied"). Because such legislation, in light of those mitigating circumstances, might well present a different constitutional question, I do not subscribe to the Court's more absolute statement.

The statute before us, however, has no such mitigating features. It reopens previously closed judgments. It is entirely retroactive, applying only to those Rule 10b-5 actions actually filed, on or before (but on which final judgments were entered after) June 19, 1991. See 15 U. S. C. 78j(b) and 17 CFR 240.10b-5 (1994). It lacks generality, for it applies only to a few individual instances. See Hearings on H. R. 3185 before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, 102d Cong., 1st Sess., 3-4 (1991) (listing, by case name, only 15 cases that had been dismissed on the basis of Lampf, Pleva, Lipkind, Prupis & Petigrow v. Gilbertson, 501 U. S. 350 (1991)). And, it is underinclusive, for it excludes from its coverage others who, relying upon pre-Lampf limitations law, may have failed to bring timely securities fraud actions against any other of the Nation's hundreds of thousands of businesses. I concede that its coverage extends beyond a single individual to many potential plaintiffs in these class actions. But because the legislation disfavors not plaintiffs but defendants, I should think


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