This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
It is often held by modern courts that a judgment is not a contract within the protection of this clause.1 Thus a judgment restraining the collection of an inheritances tax may, on appeal, be reversed because of a retroactive law, passed while such appeal was pending curing defects in the original act.2
5 See Sec. 13, 771.
6 Citizens' Savings Bank v. Owens-boro, 173 U. S. 636.
7Fisk v. Police Jury, 116 (J. S. 131.
8 Western National Bank v. Reckless, 96 Fed. 70 ( distinguishing State v. Rahway, 43 N. J. L. 338; Rahway Tax Assessors v. State, 44 N. J. L. 415).
9 Morley v. Ry., 146 U. S. 162; Louisiana v. New Orleans, 109 U. S. 285; Nottage v. Portland, 35 Or. 539; 76 Am. St. Rep. 513; 58 Pac. 883.
10 Nottage v. Portland, 35 Or. 539; 76 Am. St. Rep. 513; 58 Pac. 883. (An invalid assessment paid under protest.)
11 State v. New Orleans, 38 La. Ann. 119; 58 Am. Rep. 168.
12 Cleveland, etc., Ry. v. Wells, 65 O. S. 313; 58 L. R. A. 651; 62 N. E. 332.
13 Wilson v. Head, 184 Mass. 515; 69 N. E. 317.
14 Wilson v. Selbie, 7 S. D. 494; 64 N. W. 537.
1 Morley v. Ry., 146 U. S. 162; Louisiana v. Police Jury, 111 TJ. S. 716; Louisiana v. Xew Orleans, 109 U. S. 285; Evans-Snider-Buel Co. v. McFadden, 105 Fed. 293; 44 C. C. A. 494; 58 L. R. A. 900; Sherman v. Langham, 92 Tex. 13; 39 L. R. A. 258; 42 S. W. 961; reversing on rehearing 92 Tex. 13; 39 L. R. A. 258; 40 S. W. 140; Wyoming National Bank v. Brown, 9 Wyom. 153; 50 L. R. A. 747; 61 Pac. 465; denying rehearing, 7 Wyom. 494; 75 Am. St. Rep. 935; 53 Pac. 291. "Such duty (i. e., to pay a judgment) is created by the statute and not by the agreement of the parties, and the judgment is not itself a contract within the meaning of the constitutional provision invoked by the plaintiff in error. The most important elements of a contract are wanting. There is no aggregatio mentium." Morley v. Ry., 146 U. S.
A judgment rendered on a contract is as much protected by this clause as was the original contract.3
The rate of interest which a judgment bears is entirely a matter of statute, and may be altered by statute at any time as to the interest subsequently accruing.4 A judgment rendered on a contract under a statute providing that such a judgment should bear the contract rate of interest, has been held so far a contract that the rate of interest cannot thereafter be changed.5 Where a judgment is rendered under a statute providing for ten per cent interest on judgments, a subsequent statute reducing the rate of interest to eight per cent cannot affect such judgment.6 If a judgment is based on a tort, interest thereon is not a contract within the meaning of this clause.7 A judgment cannot be so modified by a subsequent statute as to be made unenforceable.8 This is because it is a vested right and as such is protected by another constitutional provision and not because it is a contract.9 However, some courts have explained this rule on the theory that for this purpose at least, a judgment is, in the language of Blackstone,10 to be " a contract of the highest nature."11 Thus a judgment based on a stock liability cannot be changed as to its scope and legal effect by a subsequent statute.12 So the report made by commissioners appointed under a statute which empowered them to determine the existence and amount of a claim against the city, is regarded after confirmation by the court as a judgment, so that the subsequent repeal of the statute under which the report was made cannot deprive the injured party of his interest in the amount so fixed.13 A statute which attempts to provide that a judgment shall cease to be a lien or charge after a certain time, is not a statute of limitation, since even bringing suit on the judgment within the time limited will not prevent it, under the terms of the statute, from ceasing to be a lien or a charge at the end of such time, and so is invalid as to pre-existing judgments.14 So a statute passed after a judgment as to the validity of a title bought at an execution sale providing that the prevailing party cannot enforce such judgment unless he compensates the purchaser is invalid.15 So a decree for alimony rendered when the court had no power to modify it subsequently, cannot be modified under a subsequent statute conferring such power.16
162, 169 (affirming Prouty v. Ry., 95 N. Y. 667, which was decided without report on the authority of O'Brien v. Young, 95 N. Y. 428; 47 Am. Rep. 64).
2 Ferry v. Campbell, 110 la. 290; 50 L. R. A. 92; 81 N. W. 604.
3Fisk v. Police Jury, 116 U. S. 131.
4 Morley v. Ry., 146 U. S. 162 (affirming Prouty v. Ry., 95 N. Y. 667, which was decided without report on the authority of O'Brien v. Young, 95 N. Y. 428. 667; 47 Am. Rep. 64) ; Read v. Mississippi County, 69 Ark. 365; 86 Am. St. Rep. 202; 63 S. W. 807; O'Brien v. Young, 95 N. Y. 428; 47 Am. Rep. 64; Wyoming National Bank v. Brown, 9 Wyom. 153; 50 L. R. A. 747; 61 Pac. 465; denying rehearing of 7 Wyom. 494; 75 Am. St. Rep. 935; 53 Pac. 291. Contra, Cox v. Mar-latt, 36 N. J. L. 389; 13 Am. Rep. 454. Such a statute is, if possible, construed to apply only to judgments thereafter rendered. Texas, etc., Ry. v. Anderson, 149 U. S. 237.
5 Getto v. Friend, 46 Kan. 24; 26 Pac. 473; Bond v. Dolby, 17 Neb. 491; 23 N. W. 351.
6 " It is unquestionably true that a judgment partakes of the nature of a contract sufficiently to supersede the original contract or cause of action both as to principal and interest. The original contract or cause of action becomes merged, and the judgment constitutes a new and liquidated debt. This debt and the liabilities for interest thereon, as provided by statute at the date of the judgment, are obligations binding upon the debtor till the judgment is reversed or satisfied." Butler v. Rockwell, 17 Colo. 290. 295; 29 Pac. 468; sub nomine, Rockwell v. Butler, 17 L. R. A. 611.
7 Freeland v. Williams, 131 U. S. 405; Louisiana v. Police Jury, 111 U. S. 716; Louisiana v. New Orleans, 109 U. S. 285; Sherman v.
Langham, 92 Tex. 13; 39 L. R. A. 258; 42 S. W. 961; reversing on rehearing. 40 S. W. 140.
8 People v. Buffalo, 140 N. Y. 300; 37 Am. St. Rep. 563; 35 N. E. 485; Rateliffe v. Anderson. 31 Gratt. (Va.) 105; 31 Am. Rep. 716; Griffin's Executor v. Cunningham, 20 Gratt. (Va.) 31.
9 Livingston v. Livingston, 173 N. Y. 377; 93 Am. St. Rep. 600; 61 L. R. A. 800; 66 X. E. 123.
10 Black. Com. II. 465.
11 People v. Buffalo, 140 N. Y. 300; 37 Am. St. Rep. 563; 35 N. E. 485. " Immediately upon the rendition of a judgment or decree for money, there arises a contract against the party adjudged to pay in favor of him for whose benefit it is awarded which the legislature has no power to impair." Martin v. Land Co., 94 Va. 28, 36; 26 S. E. 591.
12 Martin v. Land Co., 94 Va. 28; 26 S. E. 591.
13 People v. Buffalo, 140 N. Y. 300; 37 Am. St. Rep. 563; 35 N. E. 485.
14 Raught v. Lewis, 24 Wash. 47; 63 Pac. 1104; Palmer v. Laberee, 23 Wash. 409; 63 Pac. 216; Bettman v. Cowley. 19 Wash. 207; 40 L. R. A. 815; 53 Pac. 53.