Calder v. Bull Case Brief

Facts of the case

Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Bull, the stated beneficiaries of the will of Norman Morrison, were denied an inheritance by a Connecticut probate court. When the Bulls attempted to appeal the decision more than a year and a half later, they found that a state law prohibited appeals not made within 18 months of the original ruling. The Bulls persuaded the Connecticut legislature to change the restriction, which enabled them to successfully appeal the case. Calder, the initial inheritor of Morrison’s estate, took the case to the Supreme Court.


The Court defined the ex post facto laws prohibited by the U.S. Constitution to include only those related to crimes, which (1) made an innocent action done before the passing of the law, criminal (2) aggravated a crime or made it greater than it was when committed (3) inflicted a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed (4) altered the legal rules of evidence, and received less, or different, testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence to convict the offender. Thus, the Court held that the state law at issue did not fall within the constitutional prohibition.

  • Advocates: –
  • Petitioner: Calder
  • Respondent: Bull
  • DECIDED BY:Ellsworth Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 3 US 386 (1798)
Argued: Feb 9, 1798 Feb 13, 1798
Decided: Aug 8, 1798
Calder v. Bull Case Brief