UNITED STATES v. LOVETT, 328 U.S. 303 (1946)

To quote Alexander Hamilton, '... a limited constitution ... ( is) one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of the courts of justice; whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.' Federalist Paper No. 78. [328 U.S. 303, 315] II.

We hold that Section 304 falls precisely within the category of Congressional actions which the Constitution barred by providing that 'No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.' In Cummings v. State of Missouri, 4 Wall. 277, 323, this Court said, 'A bill of attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without a judicial trial. If the punishment be less than death, the act is termed a bill of pains and penalties. Within the meaning of the Constitution, bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties.' The Cummings decision involved a provision of the Missouri Reconstruction Constitution which required persons to take an Oath of Loyalty as a prerequisite to practicing a profession. Cummings, a Catholic Priest, was convicted for teaching and preaching as a minister without taking the oath. The oath required an applicant to affirm that he had never given aid or comfort to persons engaged in hostility to the United States and had never 'been a member of, or con connected with, any order, society, or organization, inimical to the government of the United States ....' In an illuminating opinion which gave the historical background of the Constitutional prohibition against bills of attainder, this Court invalidated the Missouri Constitutional provision both because it constituted a bill of attainder and because it had an ex post facto operation. On the same day the Cummings case was decided, the Court, in Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall. 333, also held invalid on the same grounds an Act of Congress which required attorneys practicing before this Court to take a similar oath. Neither of these cases has ever been overruled. They stand for the proposition that legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial are bills of attainder prohibited by the Con- [328 U.S. 303, 316] situation. Adherence to this principle requires invalidation of Section 304. We do adhere to it.

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