• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the portion of a federal statute prohibiting three named federal employees from receiving governmental compensation was an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

During the early period of the Cold War, a rider to an appropriations statute denied compensation for three persons branded as “subversives” by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Speaking for an 8-0 majority, Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.;Lovett, United States v.[Lovett, United States v.] wrote that a legislative act that inflicts punishment on either particular individuals or “easily ascertainable members of a group” without a judicial trial is a bill of attainder.Bill of attainder;Lovett, United States v.[Lovett, United States v.]

Expanding on the Lovett decision, the Supreme Court in United States v. BrownBrown, United States v., United States v. (1950) struck down a statute that prohibited CommunistCommunism Party members from serving as officers of trade unions because the measure punished “easily ascertainable members of a group.” In Nixon v. Administrator of General Services[case]Nixon v. Administrator of General Services[Nixon v. Administrator of General Services] (1977), however, the Court rejected former president Richard M. Nixon’s contention that a statute giving the general services administration control over his presidential papers and recordings was a bill of attainder.

Bill of attainder

Cold War

Cummings v. Missouri

Nixon v. Administrator of General Services

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