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At Common Law, that extinction of Civil Rights and capacities that took place whenever a person who had committed Treason or a felony received a sentence of death for the crime.

The effect of attainder upon a felon was, in general terms, that all estate, real and personal, was forfeited. In common law, attainder resulted in three ways: by confession, by verdict, and by process or outlawry. The first case was where the prisoner pleaded guilty at the bar, or having fled, confessed guilt and abjured the realm to save his or her life. The second was where the prisoner pleaded not guilty at the bar, and the jury brought in a verdict against him or her. The third, when the person accused made his or her escape and was outlawed.

In England, by statute 33 & 34 Vict. c. 23, attainder upon conviction, with consequent corruption of blood, Forfeiture, or Escheat, was abolished. In the United States, the doctrine of attainder is now scarcely known, although during and shortly after the Revolution acts of attainder were passed by several of the states. The passage of such bills is expressly forbidden by the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 9).

Bills of attainder are special acts of the legislature that inflict capital punishments upon persons supposed to be guilty of high offenses, such as treason and felony, without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. If an act inflicts a milder degree of punishment than death, it is called a bill of pains and penalties, but both are included in the prohibition in the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 9).

The term attainder is derived from attincta, Latin for stained or blackened. When attainder occurred, the condemned person was considered to bear a mark of infamy that corrupted his or her blood. Attainder was eventually abolished in England by statute.In the United States, attainder is scarcely known today, although several states enacted acts of attainder during the Revolutionary War period. A few states consider the disqualification of a person impeached and convicted to hold any government office to be a type of attainder. Attainder is akin to the concept of civil death, the forefeiture of certain rights and privileges upon conviction of a serious crime.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


formerly the extinction of a person's civil rights resulting from a sentence of death or outlawry on conviction for treason or felony; an obsolete procedure not unlike IMPEACHMENT.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

ATTAINDER, English criminal law. Attinctura, the stain or corruption of blood which arises from being condemned for any crime.
     2. Attainder by confession, is either by pleading guilty at the bar before the judges, and not putting one's self on one's trial by a jury; or before the coroner in sanctuary, when in ancient times, the offender was obliged to abjure the realm.
     3. Attainder by verdict, is when the prisoner at the bar pleads not guilty to the indictment, and is pronounced guilty by the verdict of the jury.
     4. Attainder by process or outlawry, is when the party flies, and is subsequently outlawed. Co. Lit. 391.
     5. Bill of attainder, is a bill brought into parliament for attainting persons condemned for high treason. By the constitution of the United States, art. 1, sect. 9, Sec. 3, it is provided that no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
All Americans of East Indian descent shall be ineligible to be government employees or union leaders." This law offends a deep principle of the Attainder Clause and shows how the Clause is indeed a prototype of the Equal Protection Clause.
We can now see why pre-Bolling civil rights crusaders reached for the Article I, Section 9 Attainder Clause as a powerful weapon against federal discrimination against blacks.(40) On this theory, even under the original Constitution, Congress would have been barred from adopting a statute captioned "An Act to Degrade and Humiliate Free Blacks in the District of Columbia."(41) And, of course, that is what Jim Crow in Washington, D.C., was in 1954.
The second, more candid response is that slavery was inconsistent with the spirit of the Attainder Clause - and with the spirit of many other provisions too, from due process of law to republican government.
No clause makes this more clear than the Attainder Clause: it cannot be a crime simply to be who you are.(54)
Yet several of the Justices who joined Romer would probably allow color-conscious affirmative action in the context of education,(75) and so it seems a stretch to say that Romer casts doubt on Bakke.(76) Interestingly, an Attainder Clause analysis may help explain the puzzle.
If Justice Kennedy's framing is not overwhelmingly clear from his first two paragraphs, it surely emerges in his third, where he quotes Amendment 2 in its entirety and pointedly describes the law as singling out a "named class, a class we shall refer to as homosexual persons or gays and lesbians."(87) The word "class" here of course recalls Kennedy's opening quote from Harlan in Plessy; and the word "named" foreshadows its use later in the opinion and strongly hints at the attainder idea.
And, of course, to name a person or a group by law for disadvantage is an "exceptional" and "invalid" "form" of "legislation." It is a bill of attainder.
It is a landmark case invalidating a bill of attainder - the very case featured above in Hypothetical Four.(106)
(Though nowhere cited in this brief, Ely has also authored a famous student note and an important article on - you guessed it - the Attainder Clause.(116) Ely also served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Warren during the term Warren handed down the Court's landmark Attainder Clause case, United States v.
Because otherwise, to use orientation as a stand-in in a law would be an obvious bill of attainder. But the bill of attainder principle is not limited to criminal cases, as is made clear in United States v.