Monday, August 14, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes VI

There are acts which the . . . Legislature cannot do, without exceeding their authority.
There are certain vital principles in our free Republican governments,
which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power; . . .
An Act of the legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact,
cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority . . .
A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean.
A law that punishes a citizen for an innocent action . . .
a law that destroys, or impairs, the lawful private contracts of citizens;
a law that makes a man a judge in his own cause; or a law that takes property from A and gives it to B.
It is against all reason and justice for a people to intrust a Legislature with such powers;
and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.
The genius, the nature and the spirit, of our State Government,
amount to a prohibition of such acts of legislation; and the general principles of law and reason forbid them.
The legislature . . . may command what is right, and prohibit what is wrong;
but they cannot change innocence into guilt; or punish innocence as a crime;
or violate the right of an antecedent lawful private contract;
or the right of private property.

Justice Chase in Calder v. Bull, 3 Dallas 386 (1798)

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