Bronson v. Kinzie
Significance: Based on the contracts clause, the Supreme Court overturned debtor-relief laws restricting the rights of creditors to foreclose on mortgages.
Although the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney sometimes limited the scope of the contract clause, Bronson v. Kinzie demonstrated its continuing commitment to enforce property rights under the clause. With the Panic of 1837, several states passed laws providing relief for debtors unable to make mortgage payments. Illinois passed two such laws. By a 6-1 vote, the Court ruled that the contract clause prohibited state legislatures from modifying the terms of an existing mortgage. The purpose of the clause, wrote the chief justice, “was to maintain the integrity of contracts, and to secure their faithful execution throughout this Union.” Although the Bronson precedent was upheld for many years, it was almost entirely abandoned in Home Building and Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934).