(Episode 30) Suit Up: The 11th Amendment

Welcome to a new season, Listeners! We've powered through the Bill of Rights, and now, we're on a quest to finish the basics of the remaining Amendments. We kick off the season with the 11th Amendment, which states:

“The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”

This one deals with a concept called "sovereign immunity."  Put simply, the 11th Amendment prevents federal courts from hearing some lawsuits brought against states.

The original court decisions about the 11th Amendment were pretty narrow (think Chisolm, Cohens, and Hans below), but as we know, the pendulum can swing pretty far over the course of a hundred or so years.  The textual approach seems narrower - it doesn't change the Constitution, but merely instructs how the Constitution should be interpreted.  Other interpretations claim the 11th Amendment took jurisdiction (a court's ability to hear a certain case) away from courts when it involves certain parties.

So, can you sue the state? And if you can, when and where can you? Join us as we discuss when you can suit up against the state!

Some additional case law for your enjoyment:

Chisolm v. Georgia (1793) (Lord Farquaad from Shrek causing problems) (ish).
Cohens v. Virginia (1821) (This one involves the Cohen brothers you probably haven't heard of.)
Hans v. Louisiana (1890) (Who is this Hans?)
Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer (1976) (Backpay, babay!)
Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co. (1989) (Suit for damages, yo.)
Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (1995) (Congress overreached here.)
Alden v. Maine (1999) (Congress overreached here, too)
Frew v. Hawkins (2004) (Enforcing a consent decree doesn't violate the 11th Amd)

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