Justice Stevens, delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. 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.
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.
On June 15, 1989, before the trial commenced, this Court announced its decision in Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164. 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. 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.
We granted certiorari, 507 U.S. 908 (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 v. USI Film Products, ante, p. 244.
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, at 257-263.
Second, petitioners argue that the case is governed by Bradley v. School Bd. of Richmond, 416 U.S. 696 (1974), rather than the presumption against statutory retroactivity. We are persuaded, however, that the presumption is even more clearly applicable to § 101 than to § 102. Section 102 altered the liabilities of employers under Title VII by subjecting them to expanded monetary liability, but it did not alter the normative scope of Title VII's prohibition on workplace discrimination. In contrast, because § 101 amended § 1981 to embrace all aspects of the contractual relationship, including contract terminations, it enlarged the category of conduct that is subject to § 1981 liability.
Petitioners rely heavily on an argument that was not applicable to § 102 of the 1991 Act, the section at issue in Landgraf. They contend that § 101 should apply to their case because it was "restorative" of the understanding of § 1981 that prevailed before our decision in Patterson. Petitioners advance two variations on this theme: Congress' evident purpose to "restore" pre-Patterson law indicates that it affirmatively intended § 101 to apply to cases arising before its enactment;
Congress' decision to alter the rule of law established in one of our cases—as petitioners put it, to "legislatively overrul[e]," see id., at 38—does not, by itself, reveal whether Congress intends the "overruling" statute to apply retroactively
Petitioners argue that the structure and legislative history of § 101 indicate that Congress specifically intended to "restore" prior law even as to parties whose rights would otherwise have been determined according to Patterson `s interpretation of § 1981. Thus, § 101 operates as a gloss on the terms "make and enforce contracts," the original language of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that was before this Court in Patterson. Petitioners also point to evidence in the 1991 Act's legislative history indicating legislators' distress with Patterson `s construction of § 1981 and their view that our decision had narrowed a previously established understanding
We may assume, as petitioners argue, that § 101 reflects congressional disapproval of Patterson' s interpretation of
The 1990 civil rights bill that was vetoed by the President contained an amendment to § 1981, identical to § 101 of the 1991 Act, that assuredly would have applied to pending cases. See Civil Rights Act of 1990, S. 2104, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., § 12 (1990). See also Landgraf, ante, at 255-256, n. 8. In its statement of purposes, the bill unambiguously declared that it was intended to "respond to the Supreme Court's recent decisions by restoring the civil rights protections that were dramatically limited by those decisions," S. 2104, § 2(b)(1) (emphasis added), and the section responding to Patterson was entitled "Restoring Prohibition Against All Racial Discrimination in the Making and Enforcement of Contracts." Id., § 12 (emphasis added).
The statute that was actually enacted in 1991 contains no comparable language. Instead of a reference to "restoring" pre-existing rights, its statement of purposes describes the Act's function as "expanding the scope of relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate protection to victims of discrimination." 1991 Act, § 3(4), 105 Stat. 1071 (emphasis added). Consistently with that revised statement of purposes, the Act lacks any direct reference to cases arising before its enactment, or to the date of the Patterson decision. Taken by itself, the fact that § 101 is framed as a gloss on § 1981's original "make and enforce contracts" 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. Thus, the text of the Act does not support the argument that § 101 of the 1991 Act was intended to "restore" prior understandings of § 1981 as to cases arising before the 1991 Act's passage.
The legislative history of the 1991 Act does not bridge the gap in the text. The statements that most strongly support such coverage are found in the debates on the 1990 bill. See n. 6, supra. Such statements are of questionable relevance to the 1991 Act, however, because the 1990 provision contained express retroactivity provisions that were omitted from the 1991 legislation. The statements relating specifically to § 101 of the 1991 Act do not provide reliable evidence on whether Congress intended to "restore" a broader meaning of § 1981 with respect to pending cases otherwise governed by Patterson `s construction of the scope of the phrase "make and enforce contracts."
A lack of clear congressional intent would not be dispositive if, as petitioners argue, § 101 is the kind of restorative statute that should presumptively be applied to pending cases. Petitioners maintain that restorative statutes do not implicate fairness concerns relating to retroactivity at least when, as is the case in this litigation, the new statute simply enacts a rule that the parties believed to be the law when they acted.
Notwithstanding the equitable appeal of petitioners' argument, we are convinced that it cannot carry the day. Our decisions simply do not support the proposition that we have espoused a "presumption" in favor of retroactive application of restorative statutes. Petitioners invoke Frisbie v. Whitney, 9 Wall. 187 (1870), which involved a federal statute that enabled Frisbie and others to acquire property they had occupied and thought they owned prior to 1862, when, in another case, this Court held that the original grant of title by the Mexican Government was void.
Petitioners also point to Freeborn v. Smith, 2 Wall. 160 (1865). There, a statute admitting Nevada to the Union had failed to provide for jurisdiction over cases arising from Nevada Territory that were pending before this Court when Nevada achieved statehood. We upheld against constitutional attack a subsequent statute explicitly curing the "accidental impediment" to our jurisdiction over such cases. See id., at 173-175.
In the case before us today, however, we do not question the power of Congress to apply its definition of the term "make and enforce contracts" to cases arising before the 1991 Act became effective, or, indeed, to those that were pending on June 15, 1989, when Patterson was decided. The question is whether Congress has manifested such an intent. Unlike the narrow error-correcting statutes at issue in Frisbie and Freeborn, § 101 is plainly not the sort of provision that must be read to apply to pending cases "because a contrary reading would render it ineffective." Landgraf , ante, at 286. Section 101 is readily comprehensible, and entirely effective, even if it applies only to conduct occurring after its effective date. A restorative purpose may be relevant to whether Congress specifically intended a new statute to govern past conduct, but we do not "presume" an intent to act retroactively in such cases.
"The principle that statutes operate only prospectively, while judicial decisions operate retrospectively, is familiar to
Patterson did not overrule any prior decision of this Court; rather, it held and therefore established that the prior decisions of the Courts of Appeals which read § 1981 to cover discriminatory contract termination were incorrect. They were not wrong according to some abstract standard of interpretive validity, but by the rules that necessarily govern our hierarchical federal court system. Cf. Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 540 (1953) (Jackson, J., concurring in result). It is this Court's responsibility to say what a statute means, and once the Court has spoken, it is the duty of other courts to respect that understanding of the governing rule of law. A judicial construction of a statute is an authoritative statement
Congress, of course, has the power to amend a statute that it believes we have misconstrued. It may even, within broad constitutional bounds, make such a change retroactive and thereby undo what it perceives to be the undesirable past consequences of a misinterpretation of its work product. No such change, however, has the force of law unless it is implemented through legislation. Even when Congress intends to supersede a rule of law embodied in one of our decisions with what it views as a better rule established in earlier decisions, its intent to reach conduct preceding the "corrective" amendment must clearly appear. We cannot say that such an intent clearly appears with respect to § 101. For this reason, and because it creates liabilities that had no legal existence before the Act was passed, § 101 does not apply to preenactment conduct.
It is so ordered.
[For opinion of Justice Scalia concurring in the judgment, see ante, p. 286.]
Justice Blackmun, dissenting.
For the reasons stated in my dissent in Landgraf v. USI Film Products, ante, p. 294, I also dissent in this case. Here, just as in Landgraf, the most natural reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 105 Stat. 1071, and this Court's precedents is that § 101 applies to cases pending on appeal on the statute's enactment date, at least where application of the new provision would not disturb the parties' vested rights or settled expectations. This is such a case.
In 1986, when respondent Roadway Express, Inc., discharged petitioners Maurice Rivers and Robert C. Davison from their jobs as garage mechanics, 42 U. S. C. § 1981, which gives all persons the same right to "make and enforce contracts,"
Nonetheless, applying a new, supercharged version of our traditional presumption against retroactive legislation, the Court concludes that petitioners, whose claim was pending when this Court announced Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164 (1989), are bound by that decision, which limited § 1981 to contract formation. Patterson's tenure was—or surely should have been—brief, as § 101 was intended to overrule Patterson and to deny it further effect. The Court's holding today, however, prolongs the life of that congressionally repudiated decision. See Estate of Reynolds v. Martin, 985 F.2d 470, 475-476 (CA9 1993) (denying application of § 101 to cases pending at its enactment would allow repudiated decisions, including Patterson, to "live on in the federal courts for . . . years").
Although the Court's opinions in this case and in Landgraf do bring needed clarity to our retroactivity jurisprudence, they do so only at the expense of stalling the intended application of remedial and restorative legislation. In its effort to reconcile the "apparent tension," Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 837 (1990), between Bradley v. School Bd. of Richmond, 416 U.S. 696 (1974), and Bowen v. Georgetown Univ. Hospital, 488 U.S. 204 (1988), the Court loses sight of the core purpose of its retroactivity doctrine, namely, to respect and effectuate new laws to the extent consistent with congressional intent and with the vested rights and settled expectations of the parties. In Bradley, a unanimous Court applied an intervening statute allowing reasonable attorney's fees for schooldesegregation
In Bowen, by contrast, the Court unanimously interpreted authorizing statutes not to permit the Secretary of Health and Human Services retroactively to change the rules for calculating hospitals' reimbursements for past services provided under Medicare. Although Bowen properly turned on the textual analysis of the applicable statutes, neither citing Bradley nor resorting to presumptions on retroactivity, its broad dicta disfavored the retroactive application of congressional enactments and administrative rules. See 488 U. S., at 208. Bowen is consistent, however, with the Court's analysis in Bennett v. New Jersey, 470 U.S. 632 (1985), appraising the "[p]ractical considerations," id., at 640, that counsel against retroactive changes in federal grant programs and noting that such changes would deprive recipients of "fixed, predictable standards." Ibid. Bowen also accords with Bradley `s concern for preventing the injustice that would result from the disturbance of the parties' reasonable reliance. Thus, properly understood, Bradley establishes a presumption
Applying these principles here, "[w]hen a law purports to restore the status quo in existence prior to an intervening Supreme Court decision, the application of that law to conduct occurring prior to the decision would obviously not frustrate the expectations of the parties concerning the legal consequences of their actions at that time." Gersman v. Group Health Assn., Inc., 975 F.2d 886, 907 (CADC 1992) (dissenting opinion). While § 101 undoubtedly expands the scope of § 1981 to prohibit conduct that was not illegal under Patterson,
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Trucking Associations et al. by James D. Holzhauer, Andrew L. Frey, Kenneth S. Geller, Javier H. Rubinstein, Daniel R. Barney, and Kenneth P. Kolson; and for Motor Express, Inc., by Alan J. Thiemann.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Equal Employment Advisory Council et al. by Robert E. Williams, Douglas S. McDowell, and Mona C. Zeiberg; for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People et al. by Marc L. Fleischaker, David L. Kelleher, Steven S. Zaleznick, Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, Steven M. Freeman, Michael Lieberman, Dennis Courtland Hayes, Willie Abrams, Samuel Rabinove, and Richard Foltin; and for Wards Cove Packing Co. by Douglas M. Fryer, Douglas M. Duncan, and Richard L. Phillips.
"Section 1977 of the Revised Statutes (42 U. S. C. 1981) is amended—
"(1) by inserting `(a)' before `All persons within'; and
"(2) by adding at the end the following new subsections:
"(b) For purposes of this section, the term `make and enforce contracts' includes the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.
"(c) The rights protected by this section are protected against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination and impairment under color of State law." Prior to the 1991 amendment, § 1981 provided:
"All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other." The history of § 1981, which is sometimes cited as § 1977 of the Revised Statutes, is set forth in Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 168-170, and n. 8 (1976).
"The Patterson decision sharply cut back on the scope and effectiveness of section 1981, with profoundly negative consequences both in the employment context and elsewhere. As a result of the decision, the more than 11 million employees in firms that are not covered by Title VII lack any protection against racial harassment and other forms of race discrimination on the job.
. . . . .
"Since Patterson was announced, more than 200 claims of race discrimination have been dismissed by federal courts as a result of the decision. Statement of Julius LeVonne Chambers, Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (March 9, 1990). Many persons subjected to blatant bigotry lack any means to obtain relief.
. . . . .
"The Committee finds that there is a compelling need for legislation to overrule the Patterson decision and ensure that federal law prohibits all race discrimination in contracts." S. Rep. No. 101-315, pp. 12-14 (1990). Congress' concern with the effects of the Patterson decision in specific cases, including cases in which plaintiffs had won judgments only to have them reversed after Patterson came down, see S. Rep. No. 315, at 13-14, doubtless explains why the 1990 legislation contained a special provision for the reopening of judgments. See Civil Rights Act of 1990, S. 2104, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., § 15(b)(3) (1990); see also Landgraf, ante, at 255-256, n. 8. Petitioners do not argue that the 1991 Act should be read to reach cases finally decided.