This is an extract of our Sovereign Immunity And The 11th Amendment document, which we sell as part of our Federal Courts Outlines collection written by the top tier of Harvard Law School students.
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VIII. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY AND THE ELEVENTH AMENDMENT Federal Sovereign Immunity The doctrine of sovereign immunity bars unconsented suits against the United States. The doctrine is a function of the courts' practical inability to enforce unconsented judgments against the United States. Where money damages are issue, the doctrine has a constitutional foundation in the Appropriation's Clause's admonition that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law." "Officer suits" have traditionally been available as an alternative to suits against the United States. The Court has traditionally permitted actions against officers in their official capacity for damages (Little) and equitable relief (United States v. Lee). The traditional rule was that sovereign immunity did not apply to an action for equitable relief unless the United States was defendant or a necessary party (Lee). However, the Court has more recently held that officer suits seeking to compel official action are barred by sovereign immunity unless the officer's action is unconstitutional or ultra vires (Larson). Eleventh Amendment BACKGROUND. Article III, SS 2 provides that the judicial power shall extend to controversies "between a state and citizens of another state." Chisholm v. Georgia held that this clause permitted the federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over an action filed by a South Carolina citizen against the state of Georgia. Almost immediately, Congress proposed the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment provides: "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." The Eleventh Amendment has been read broadly to apply to admiralty cases and to suits brought by foreign nations or in-state citizens. It has also been read to prohibit unconsented private action against a state brought on a federal claim in state court (Alden) or before an administrative agency (Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina Ports Authority). "ARISING UNDER" CASES. Hans v. Louisiana held that the Eleventh Amendment barred federal courts from exercising "arising under" jurisdiction in a claim brought by a citizen against a State. Justice Brennan argued that Hans was wrongly decided, and that the Eleventh Amendment only meant to preclude jurisdiction based on Article III's state-citizen diversity clause (Atascadero, dissent). Justice Souter took a similar view in his Seminole Tribe dissent. EXCEPTIONS. The Eleventh Amendment does not apply (1) where the State has waived it, either explicitly or by its litigation conduct; (2) where a state-court defendant appeals a criminal or civil action initiated by the State to the Supreme Court (Cohens); (3) to actions brought by another State or the United States; or (4) where Congress has abrogated the Eleventh Amendment pursuant to Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Waiver. The State's waiver of sovereign immunity in state court does not constitute a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity (Smith v. Reeves). Waiver by Litigation Conduct. Whether particular litigation activities amount to a waiver is a question of federal law (Lapides). Counterclaims. The Circuits are divided as to whether a state's voluntary appearance as a plaintiff in federal court waives the state's sovereign immunity with respect to compulsory counterclaims. Removal. The Court has held that a state's removal of an action to federal court constitutes a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity, at least in the context of state-law claims over which the state has explicitly waived immunity from state-court proceedings. (Lapides). Constructive Waiver. Consent to suit cannot be predicated upon "the State's mere presence in a field subject to congressional regulation" (College Savings Bank). The Spending Clause and Waiver. In Sossamon, the Court affirmed that Congress can condition grants of federal funds on state waiver of sovereign immunity. However, the Court held that "a State's consent to suit must be unequivocally expressed and that the scope of any waiver will be strictly construed in favor of the sovereign." According to this principle, a general waiver of sovereign immunity will not be read to encompass suits for money relief absent clear authorization of that remedy.
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