Rivers & Davison v. Roadway Express, Inc.

Decision Date26 April 1994
Docket Number92938
Citation128 L.Ed.2d 274,114 S.Ct. 1510,511 U.S. 298
PartiesMaurice RIVERS and Robert C. Davison, Petitioners, v. ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus *

Petitioners filed a complaint under, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, alleging that respondent, their employer, had fired them on baseless charges because of their race and because they had insisted on the same procedural protections in disciplinary proceedings that were afforded white employees. Before the trial, this Court issued Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 171, 109 S.Ct. 2363, 2369, 105 L.Ed.2d 132, holding that § 1981's prohibition against racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts does not apply to conduct which occurs after the formation of a contract and which does not interfere with the right to enforce established contract obligations. The District Court relied on Patterson in dismissing petitioners' discriminatory discharge claims. While their appeal was pending, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 Act or Act) became law, § 101 of which defines § 1981's "make and enforce contracts" phrase to embrace all phases and incidents of the contractual relationship, including discriminatory contract terminations. The Court of Appeals ruled, among other things, that § 1981 as interpreted in Patterson, not as amended by § 101, governed the case.

Held: Section 101 does not apply to a case that arose before it was enacted. Pp. ____.

(a) Landgraf v. USI Film Products, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1483, --- L.Ed.2d ---- (1994), in which this Court concluded that § 102 of the 1991 Act does not apply to cases arising before its enactment, requires rejection of two of petitioners' submissions in this case: their negative implication argument based on §§ 402(a), 109(c), and 402(b), see --- U.S., at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 1493, and their argument that Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., 416 U.S. 696, 94 S.Ct. 2006, 40 L.Ed.2d 476, controls here, rather than the presumption against statutory retroactivity, see --- U.S., at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 1489-1490. Pp. ____.

(b) The fact that § 101 was enacted in response to Patterson does not supply sufficient evidence of a clear congressional intent to overcome the presumption against statutory retroactivity. Even assuming that § 101 reflects disapproval of Patterson's § 1981 interpretation, and that most legislators believed that the case was incorrectly decided and represented a departure from the previously prevailing understanding of § 1981's reach, the Act's text does not support petitioners' argument that § 101 was intended to "restore" that prior understanding as to cases arising before the Act's passage. In contrast to the 1990 civil rights bill that was vetoed by the President, the 1991 Act neither declares its intent to "restor[e]" protections that were limited by Patterson and other decisions nor provides that its § 1981 amendment applies to all proceedings "pending on or commenced after" the date Patterson was decided, but describes its function as "expanding" the scope of relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate protection to discrimination victims. Taken by itself, the fact that § 101 is framed as a gloss on § 1981's original "make and enforce contracts" language does not demonstrate an intent to apply the new definition to past acts. Altering statutory definitions, or adding new definitions of terms previously undefined, is a common way of amending statutes, and simply does not answer the retroactivity question. The 1991 Act's legislative history does not bridge the textual gap, since the statements that most strongly support retroactivity are found in the debates on the 1990 bill, and the statements relating specifically to § 101 are conflicting and unreliable. Pp. ____.

(c) Contrary to petitioners' argument, this Court's decisions do not espouse a "presumption" in favor of the retroactive application of restorative statutes even in the absence of clear congressional intent. Frisbie v. Whitney, 9 Wall. 187, 19 L.Ed. 668, and Freeborn v. Smith, 2 Wall. 160, 17 L.Ed. 922, distinguished. A restorative purpose may be relevant to whether Congress specifically intended a new statute to govern past conduct, but an intent to act retroactively in such cases must be based on clear evidence and may not be presumed. Since neither § 101 nor the statute of which it is a part contains such evidence, and since the section creates substantive liabilities that had no legal existence before the 1991 Act was passed, § 101 does not apply to preenactment conduct. Rather, Patterson provides the authoritative interpretation of the phrase "make and enforce contracts" in § 1981 before the 1991 amendment went into effect. Pp. ____.

973 F.2d 490 (CA 6 1992), affirmed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined.

SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which KENNEDY and THOMAS, JJ., joined.

BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Eric Schnapper, New York City, for petitioners.

Drew S. Days, III, New York City, for United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court.

Glen D. Nager, Washington, DC, for respondents.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub.L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071, defines the term "make and enforce contracts" as used in § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Rev. Stat.1977, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, to include "the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship." We granted certiorari to decide whether § 101 applies to a case that arose before it was enacted. We hold that it does not.

I

Petitioners Rivers and Davison were employed by respondent Roadway Express, Inc., as garage mechanics. On the morning of August 22, 1986, a supervisor directed them to attend disciplinary hearings later that day. Because they had not received the proper notice guaranteed by their collective-bargaining agreement, petitioners refused to attend. They were suspended for two days, but filed grievances and were awarded two days' backpay. Respondent then held another disciplinary hearing, which petitioners also refused to attend, again on the ground that they had not received proper notice. Respondent thereupon discharged them.

On December 22, 1986, petitioners filed a complaint alleging that respondent had discharged them because of their race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.1 They claimed, inter alia, that they had been fired on baseless charges because of their race and because they had insisted on the same procedural protections afforded white employees.

On June 15, 1989, before the trial commenced, this Court announced its decision in Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 109 S.Ct. 2363, 105 L.Ed.2d 132. Patterson held that § 1981 "does not apply to conduct which occurs after the formation of a contract and which does not interfere with the right to enforce established contract obligations." Id., at 171, 109 S.Ct., at 2369. Relying on Patterson, the District Court held that none of petitioners' discriminatory discharge claims were covered by § 1981, and dismissed their claims under that section. After a bench trial on petitioners' Title VII claims, the District Court found that petitioners had been discharged for reasons other than their race, and entered judgment for respondent.

On appeal, petitioners contended that the District Court had misconstrued their complaint: they had not merely claimed discriminatory discharge, but more specifically had alleged that respondents had retaliated against them, because of their race, for attempting to enforce their procedural rights under the collective-bargaining agreement. Because that allegation related to "enforcement" of the labor contract, petitioners maintained, it stated a § 1981 claim even under Patterson's construction of the statute. While petitioners' appeal was pending, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 became law. Section 101 of that Act provides that § 1981's prohibition against racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts applies to all phases and incidents of the contractual relationship, including discriminatory contract terminations.2 Petitioners accordingly filed a supplemental brief advancing the argument that the new statute applied in their case. The Court of Appeals agreed with petitioners' first contention but not the second. Accordingly, it ruled that § 1981 as interpreted in Patterson, not as amended by § 101, governed the case and remanded for a jury trial limited to petitioners' discrimination-in-contract-enforcement claim. See Harvis v. Roadway Express, Inc., 973 F.2d 490 (CA6 1992).

We granted certiorari, 507 U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 1250, 122 L.Ed.2d 649 (1993), on the sole question whether § 101 of the 1991 Act applies to cases pending when it was enacted and set the case for argument with Landgraf, --- U.S., at ----, 114 S.Ct., at ----.

II

In Landgraf, we concluded that § 102 of the 1991 Act does not apply to cases that arose before its enactment. The reasons supporting that conclusion also apply to § 101, and require rejection of two of petitioners' submissions in this case. First, these petitioners, like the petitioner in Landgraf, rely heavily on a negative implication argument based on §§ 402(a), 109(c) and 402(b) of the Act. That argument, however, is no more persuasive as to the application of § 101 to preenactment conduct than as to that of § 102. See ante, 114 S.Ct., at 1493-1496.

Second, petitioners argue that the case is governed by Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., 416 U.S. 696, 94 S.Ct. 2006, 40 L.Ed.2d 476 (1974), rather than the presumption against statutory retroactivity. We are persuaded, however, that the...

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