California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 6 (1995)

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504

CALIFORNIA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS v. MORALES

Opinion of the Court

Respondent then filed a federal habeas corpus petition in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, asserting that he was being held in custody in violation of the Federal Constitution. See 28 U. S. C. 2254. Respondent argued that as applied to him, the 1981 amendment constituted an ex post facto law barred by Article I, 10, of the United States Constitution. The District Court denied respondent's habeas petition, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. 16 F. 3d 1001 (1994).2 Because "a prisoner cannot be paroled without first having a parole hearing," the Court of Appeals concluded that "any retrospective law making parole hearings less accessible would effectively increase the [prisoner's] sentence and violate the ex post facto clause." Id., at 1004. The Court of Appeals accordingly held that the Board was constitutionally constrained to provide respondent with annual parole suitability hearings, as required by the law in effect when he committed his crime. Id., at 1006.

We granted certiorari, 512 U. S. 1287 (1994), and we now reverse.

II

Article I, 10, of the Constitution prohibits the States from passing any "ex post facto Law." In Collins v. Young-blood, 497 U. S. 37, 41 (1990), we reaffirmed that the Ex Post Facto Clause incorporated "a term of art with an established meaning at the time of the framing of the Constitution." In accordance with this original understanding, we have held that the Clause is aimed at laws that "retroactively alter the definition of crimes or increase the punishment for criminal acts." Id., at 43 (citing Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 391-392

2 During the pendency of this action, respondent appeared before the Board for his 1992 suitability hearing. The Board again found respondent unsuitable and again determined that it was not reasonable to expect that he would be found suitable for parole at the following two annual hearings. Respondent's next suitability hearing was then set for 1995.

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