Ex post facto
Hello I'm Robyn and welcome to TransLegal's lesson of the week. Today we're going to talk about the Latin phrase ex post facto and that literally means after the fact. This phrase, ex post facto, is usually used to refer to retroactive laws, that is, laws which change the legal consequences of acts which were committed before the law was made.
Now, in many countries ex post facto criminal laws are prohibited. They are seen as a violation of the rule of law as it applies in a free and democratic society. This is because there is a theory that it's unfair to punish a person for an act which was legal at the time that it was committed and the United States Constitution, among other countries' laws, provides that no State shall pass any ex post facto law. They believe that the people must be able to know the law. If ex post facto legislation were permitted, there would be no way of knowing whether one's actions are legal or illegal.
However, in non-criminal contexts, ex post facto laws are sometimes permitted if they benefit the citizens, vis-à-vis the State. One good example was when the Swedish parliament voted in 2004 to abolish inheritance tax by January 1, 2005. However, in 2005 they retroactively decided to move the date back to December 17, 2004. The reason for this was to make it easier for the survivors of the many Swedish victims of the 2004 tsunami which took place on December 26, 2004. So these families received an ex post facto benefit of not having to pay taxes so it was not deemed unfair.
This phrase is usually used as an adjective as in the sentence
"the plaintiff challenges this amendment on ex post facto grounds".
We also see it in the phrase "ex post facto clause". The clause that I quoted to you before from the U.S. Constitution is known as the ex post facto clause, and we also talk about ex post facto provisions in laws.
Now this phrase is not only used when we're talking about laws, but we can also talk about, for instance, an ex post facto ratification of a contract or we can also talk about the fact that the President's advisors made an ex post facto reconstruction of the crisis.
And finally, we can use this phrase as an adverb as in the sentence "the town limits have been expanded ex post facto".
Thank you for listening. I hope you found this useful.