Article I, Section 16 of the Texas Constitution

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, retroactive law, or any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be made.

Editor Comments


Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Robinson v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 335 S.W.3d 126, 136 (Tex. 2010) (footnote omitted) ("Robinson, like the dissenting opinion in the court of appeals, argues that the test is simply whether vested rights have been impaired, period; . . . . Crown counters that the majority opinion in the court of appeals was correct in focusing instead on the reasonableness of the Legislature's exercise of its police power; the prohibition against retroactive laws does not invalidate a proper exercise of that power despite its impairment of private rights. As each position finds support in our case law, we begin by returning to first principles.")
  • Barshop v. Medina Cty. Underground Water Conservation Dist., 925 S.W.2d 618, 633-35 (Tex. 1996) ("Plaintiffs claim the Act violates this provision because it is an ex post facto law, a retroactive law, and it impairs the obligation of contracts. We will examine each of these claims in turn. . . . Accordingly, we determine that the Act is not invalid under the contract clause because it is a valid exercise of the police power necessary to safeguard the public safety and welfare. The Act is therefore not subject to any of Plaintiffs' facial attacks under article I, section 16 of the Texas Constitution.")

Historic Decisions

  • Travelers' Ins. Co. v. Marshall, 76 S.W.2d 1007, 1024 (Tex. 1934) ("So, in view of the history of the adoption of the contract clause in the Federal Constitution, its incorporation in the organic laws of the several states, and the long judicial interpretation thereof by . . . , there is no doubt whatever but that section 16 of our Bill of Rights (article 1 of the Constitution) prohibits the enactment of moratory legislation which impairs the obligation of contracts, even though enacted during an industrial depression, such as this country had previously suffered in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1861-1865, and 1873.")
  • Mellinger v. City of Houston, 3 S.W. 249, 254-55 (Tex. 1887) ("The states to which we have referred are the only ones which have constitutional provisions in effect the same as exists in this state. The section of the constitution [prohibiting the enactment of retroactive laws] was considered in the case of De Cordova v. City of Galveston, 4 Tex. 480; and, while the facts in that case did not call for the decision of the question before us, it did call for a determination of the character of laws which the constitution forbids. It was said that '. . . .' We have no doubt that the law is thus correctly stated.")
  • Hamilton v. Flinn, 21 Tex. 713, 716-17 (1858) ("It is very clear that the rights of forced heirship, under the law of 1840, were, although inchoate, but a mere expectancy during the life of the ancestor, which did not vest nor have vitality until his death; that the status and rights of forced heirs being the creatures of law, must derive their existence and force from the law under which they vest or are brought into existence . . . . The heirs having no rights cannot complain of an approval by the legislature, expressly or by implication, of wills previously made but not fixed by the death of the maker.")
  • DeCordova v. City of Galveston, 4 Tex. 470, 479-80 (1849) ("The cases to which reference has been made, and the opinions of the courts in expounding this constitutional inhibition, will serve to illustrate the intention of the convention in imposing the restriction. Laws are deemed retrospective and within the constitutional prohibition which by retrospective operation . . . or if an attempt were made by law, either by implication or expressly, to revive causes of action already barred, such legislation would be retrospective within the intent of the prohibition, and would therefore be wholly inoperative.")

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