Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution: Wikis


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Amendment XI in the National Archives

The Eleventh Amendment (Amendment XI) to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state's sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country. This amendment was adopted in response to, and in order to overrule, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793).



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, the first amendment to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights, was adopted following the Supreme Court's ruling in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793). In Chisholm, the Court ruled that federal courts had the authority to hear cases in law and equity brought by private citizens against states and that states did not enjoy sovereign immunity from suits made by citizens of other states. Thus, the amendment clarified Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, which gave diversity jurisdiction to the judiciary to hear cases "between a state and citizens of another state."

The amendment's text does not mention suits brought against a state by its own citizens. However, in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment reflects a broader principle of sovereign immunity. As Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a five Justice majority, stated in Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999):

[S]overeign immunity derives not from the Eleventh Amendment but from the structure of the original Constitution itself....Nor can we conclude that the specific Article I powers delegated to Congress necessarily include, by virtue of the Necessary and Proper Clause or otherwise, the incidental authority to subject the States to private suits as a means of achieving objectives otherwise within the scope of the enumerated powers.[1]

Writing for a four justice dissent in Alden, Justice David Souter said the states surrendered their sovereign immunity when they ratified the Constitution. The dissenting justices read the amendment's text as reflecting a narrow form of sovereign immunity that limited only the diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts. They concluded that the states are not insulated from suits by individuals by either the Eleventh Amendment in particular or the Constitution in general.[2]

Although the Eleventh Amendment immunizes states from suit for money damages or equitable relief without their consent, in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts may enjoin state officials from violating federal law. In Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976), the Supreme Court ruled that Congress may abrogate state immunity from suit under the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Central Virginia Community College v. Katz 546 U.S. 356 (2006), the Court ruled the Congress could do the same regarding bankruptcy cases by way of Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution. Also, in Lapides v. Board of Regents of Univ. System of Ga., 535 U.S. 613 (2002), the Supreme Court ruled that a state voluntarily waives the Eleventh Amendment when it invokes a federal court's removal jurisdiction.

Proposal and ratification

The Eleventh Amendment was proposed by the Congress on March 4, 1794 and was ratified by the following states:[3]

  1. New York (March 27, 1794)
  2. Rhode Island (March 31, 1794)
  3. Connecticut (May 8, 1794)
  4. New Hampshire (June 16, 1794)
  5. Massachusetts (June 26, 1794)
  6. Vermont (November 9, 1794)
  7. Virginia (November 18, 1794)
  8. Georgia (November 29, 1794)
  9. Kentucky (December 7, 1794)
  10. Maryland (December 26, 1794)
  11. Delaware (January 23, 1795)
  12. North Carolina (February 7, 1795)

Ratification was completed on February 7, 1795.

The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following state:

South Carolina (December 4, 1797).

The following states did not ratify the amendment:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Pennsylvania


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