James W. Ely

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Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Journal

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contract clause, contractual rights, constitutional law


Constitutional Law | Contracts | Law


The Contract Clause is no longer the subject of much judicial solicitude or academic interest.' Since the 1930s the once potent Contract Clause has been largely relegated to the outer reaches of constitutional law.2 This, of course, was not always the case. On the contrary, throughout the nineteenth century the Contract Clause was one of the most litigated provisions of the Constitution. In 1896, Justice George Shiras astutely commented: "No provision of the constitution of the United States has received more frequent consideration by this court than that which provides that no state shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts."' A brief survey of the evolution of contract clause jurisprudence helps to put into perspective the current desuetude of the Clause.



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