• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the Eleventh Amendment prevents Congress from authorizing suits by Native American tribes to enforce federal statutes.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988Indian Gaming Regulatory Act required states to negotiate gaming compacts with Indian tribes located in their states. The act authorized the tribes to bring suit in federal court against a state failing to negotiate a compact “in good faith.” Based on the statute, the Seminole Tribe sued the state of Florida.States’ rights;Seminole Tribe v. Florida[Seminole Tribe v. Florida]Eleventh Amendment;Seminole Tribe v. Florida[Seminole Tribe v. Florida]

By a 5-4 vote, the Court held that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority in the gaming legislation. Speaking for the majority, Chief Justice William H. RehnquistRehnquist, William H.;Seminole Tribe v. Florida[Seminole Tribe v. Florida] argued that the Eleventh Amendment presupposes that each state is a sovereign entity and that an inherent principle of sovereignty is that a state may not be sued without its consent. Neither the Indian commerce clause nor the commerce clause provided Congress with the power to abrogate the sovereign immunity of the states. The immunity of states, however, did not extend to local governments or to state officials. The Seminole Tribe decision overruled Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co. (1989). The decision did not involve suits to enforce treaty rights. Justice David H. Souter dissented in a vigorous and lengthy opinion.

Commerce, regulation of

Eleventh Amendment

Native American law

Native American treaties

States’ rights and state sovereignty

Categories: History