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Calder v. Bull - The Facts Of The Case

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Article 1, section 10 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the enactment of ex post facto laws, laws drafted "after the fact." The specific meaning and application of this provision was not clarified by the Supreme Court until it ruled in the case of Calder v. Bull.

This case arose out of a dispute between two married couples, the Calders and Bulls, over the estate left behind by Normand Morrison, a physician who died in 1793. Although the Bulls were the express beneficiaries of Morrison's estate, the Calders secured the property rights to some of the deceased's possessions. The Bulls then took the Calders to Connecticut probate court, which ruled in the Calders' favor. By law, the Bulls then had 18 months to appeal this ruling. When that time period expired, they entreated the state legislature to pass a law changing the time limit on appeals. Upon rehearing the case, the probate court then ruled in favor of the Bulls. Unwilling to accept this reversal, Calder took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He claimed that the Connecticut legislation was a violation of Article 1, section 10.

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