Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits lawsuits in federal courts against states by citizens of other states or of foreign countries.
Ratified in 1795, the Eleventh Amendment was the first amendment added to the U.S. Constitution following the adoption of the Bill of Rights. It was adopted specifically to overrule a Supreme Court decision, Chisholm v. Georgia
Article III, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution grants jurisdiction to federal courts in the case of controversies between a state and citizens of another state. In a 4-1 decision, with only justice James Iredell
On March 4, 1794--within a year of the Chisholm decision–Congress
The date on which the Eleventh Amendment officially became a part of the Constitution is often given as January 8, 1798, although it is now conceded that presidents play no official role in the amendment process, so the Eleventh Amendment officially became a part of the Constitution after its ratification in 1795.
Under the Eleventh Amendment, federal courts are prohibited from considering lawsuits brought against states by two specific classes of people: citizens of other states and citizens and subjects of foreign nations. As time passed, however, the Eleventh Amendment was interpreted more broadly than had probably been originally intended by its framers.
In New Hampshire v. Louisiana
The words of the Eleventh Amendment do not refer to any limitations on the right of state citizens to sue the state within which they reside. Nonetheless, in the controversial Hans v. Louisiana
During the 1990’s, the five conservative members of the Rehnquist Court wanted to adhere faithfully to the Hans precedent, while the four liberal members believed it had been wrongly decided. The Court voted five to four to restore Hans and reverse a 1989 precedent in Seminole Tribe v. Florida
The same five-member majority ruled in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents
The impact of sovereign immunity has been limited in practice because all of the states except for Virginia have waved much of their immunity. Virginia has thus become the only state that can almost never be sued by its own citizens. Even Virginia, however, can be sued in federal bankruptcy cases. This was decided in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz
Significant exceptions have been made to the states’ immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Immunity does not extend to the political subdivisions within the states, such as cities and counties. Although states may waive their sovereign immunity from suit, Congress may not assume they have does so unless the waver is explicit. Congress, by virtue of its enforcement powers specified in section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment
Perhaps no amendment to the Constitution has been interpreted in as many various ways as the Eleventh. Some noted legal scholars have called for its restatement and simplification. Others have proposed that the amendment should be interpreted literally based on the simple declaration of its forty-three words. At present, however, citizens who think they have cause to take action against states must pursue political action or work within the framework of exceptions that has resulted from the Supreme Court’s complex interpretations of the amendment. Since the Seminole Tribe decision of 1996, most of the major decisions under the Eleventh Amendment have been decided by 5-4 votes, which strongly suggests that the precedents are vulnerable to future reversals.
Baum, Lawrence. The Supreme Court. 8th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2003. Doernberg, Donald. Sovereign Immunity or the Rule of Law. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2006. Noonan, John Thomas. Narrowing the Nation’s Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. O’Brien, David. Constitutional Law and Politics, Volume One: Struggles for Power and Governmental Accountability. 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. Orth, John V. The Judicial Power of the United States: The Eleventh Amendment in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Symposium. “State Sovereign Immunity and the Eleventh Amendment,” Notre Dame Law Review 75 (2000): 817-1182.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Bill of Rights
Chisholm v. Georgia
Peckham, Rufus W.
Separation of powers