Monday, September 30, 2013

The Top Five: The 11th Amendment

The 11th Amendment pops up with some frequency in Constitutional Law questions. Here are five things to know about this Amendment going into the exam.

(1): The Amendment prohibits federal (not state) courts from hearing a private party's or foreign government's claims against a state government. State courts have similar immunity, however, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

(2): Though the amendment prohibits claims against a state government, it does not prohibit claims against local governments (county, town, etc.)

(3): The amendment does not prevent the United States from suing a state in federal court, nor does it prevent a state from suing another state in federal court. (And when a state sues a state, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to hear the case.)

(4): There are exceptions to the amendment whereby a private party can sue a state officer in federal court. The two to keep in mind are actions to enjoin a state officer from future conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law, and actions for damages against the state officer personally.

(5): Congress can remove 11th Amendment immunity only as to actions created under the 14th Amendment. To do so, however, the removal of immunity must be unmistakably clear.

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