Article I, Section 10, Clause 1:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
The Contract Clause provides that no state may pass a
Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, and a
law in this context may be a statute, constitutional provision, 1 municipal ordinance, 2 or administrative regulation having the force and operation of a statute. 3 But are judicial decisions within the clause? The abstract principle of the separation of powers, at least until recently, forbade the idea that the courts
make law and the word
pass in the above clause seemed to confine it to the formal and acknowledged methods of exercise of the law-making function. Accordingly, the Court has frequently said that the clause does not cover judicial decisions, however erroneous, or whatever their effect on existing contract rights. 4 Nevertheless, there are important exceptions to this rule that are set forth below.