Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 34 (1995)

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244

PLAUT v. SPENDTHRIFT FARM, INC.

Breyer, J., concurring in judgment

that the latter number is the more relevant. And, that number is too small (compared with the number of similar, uncovered firms) to distinguish meaningfully the law before us from a similar law aimed at a single closed case. Nor does the existence of 27A(a), which applies to Rule 10b-5 actions pending at the time of the legislation, change this conclusion. That provision seems aimed at too few additional individuals to mitigate the low level of generality of 27A(b). See Hearings on H. R. 3185, supra, at 5-6 (listing 17 cases in which dismissal motions based on Lampf were pending).

The upshot is that, viewed in light of the relevant, liberty-protecting objectives of the "separation of powers," this case falls directly within the scope of language in this Court's cases suggesting a restriction on Congress' power to reopen closed court judgments. See, e. g., Chicago & Southern Air Lines, Inc. v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 333 U. S. 103, 113 (1948) ("Judgments within the powers vested in courts by the Judiciary Article of the Constitution may not lawfully be revised [or] overturned . . . by another Department of Government"); Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., supra, at 431 ("[I]f the remedy in this case had been an action at law, and a judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff for damages, the right to these would have passed beyond the reach of the power of congress"); Hayburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409, 413 (1792) (letter from Justice Iredell and District Judge Sitgreaves to President Washington) ("[N]o decision of any court of the United States can, under any circumstances, in our opinion, agreeable to the Constitution, be liable to a revision, or even suspension, by the Legislature itself").

At the same time, because the law before us both reopens final judgments and lacks the liberty-protecting assurances that prospectivity and greater generality would have provided, we need not, and we should not, go further—to make of the reopening itself, an absolute, always determinative distinction, a "prophylactic device," or a foundation for the building of a new "high wal[l]" between the branches.

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