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Calder v. Bull

The Facts Of The Case, High Court Rules


Mr. and Mrs. Calder


Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Bull

Petitioners' Claim

That Connecticut legislation granting a rehearing of a probate dispute violated the Constitution's prohibition of ex post facto laws.

Justices for the Court

Samuel Chase (writing for the Court), William Cushing, James Iredell, William Paterson

Justices Dissenting

None (Oliver Ellsworth and James Wilson did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

8 August 1798


Connecticut's legislation was not a constitutional violation because the ex post factoprovision applies only to criminal cases.


The Supreme Court's decision in Calder v. Bull changed the course of American jurisprudence by eliminating consideration of ex post facto violations in civil cases.


The Supreme Court's decision in Calder v. Bull had a substantial impact on legal history. As a consequence of this decision, individuals deprived of vested property rights could no longer cite the ex post facto prohibition in their argument for relief. Instead they relied on constitutional protections on the sanctity of contracts to protect themselves against legislative action that threatened their property rights.

Related Cases

  • Pigeon v. Buck, 237 U.S. 386 (1915).
  • Fred T. Ley Co. v. United States, 273 U.S. 386 (1927).
  • Adamos v. New York Life Insurance Company, 293 U.S. 386 (1935).
  • Bowen v. Kizer, 485 U.S. 386 (1988).

Further Readings

  • Chandler, Ralph C. The Constitutional Law Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1987.
  • Cushman, Robert Fairchild with Susan P. Koniak. Leading Constitutional Decisions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1992.
  • Menez, Joseph Francis. Summaries of Leading Cases of the Constitution. Savage, MD: Littlefield, Adams, 1990.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832