Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607, 23 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 607 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

ex post facto "by holding that the statute was not meant to apply retroactively." Post, at 634. Here is the court's analysis, virtually in full:

"In this case the bar of the statute of limitations of one year was completed before the Code went into operation . . . . The state having neglected to prosecute within the time prescribed for its own action, lost the right to prosecute the suit. To give an Act of the Legislature, passed after such loss, the effect of reviving the right of action in the State, would give it an operation ex post facto, which we cannot suppose the Legislature intended." 25 Tex. Supp., at 67.

The reader can make up his own mind.

Neither can we accept the dissent's view that Judge Learned Hand's like-minded comments in Falter were "un-supported," post, at 637. In fact, Judge Hand's comments had support in pre-existing case law, commentary, and published legislative debates, supra, at 616-620, and Hand's opinion specifically cited Moore and two other early cases, Commonwealth v. Duffy, 96 Pa. 506 (1880), and People v. Buckner, 281 Ill. 340, 117 N. E. 1023 (1917). Falter, 23 F. 2d, at 425.

We add that, whatever the exact counts of categories of cases that we cite, cf. post, at 633, it is not surprising that most of these cases involve dicta, while only a handful involve clear holdings. Where the law has long been accepted as clearly settled, few cases are likely to arise, and cases that do arise most likely involve bordering areas of law, such as new limitations statutes enacted prior to expiration of preexisting limitations periods. Consistent with this expectation, one commentator noted in 1993 that the question whether to give retroactive effect to the extension of unexpired limitations periods had "become timely due to state legislature amendments during the early 1980s that lengthen the limitation period for the crimes of rape and sexual intercourse with a child." Corman, Limitation of Actions 1.6,


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