States Have Sovereign Immunity

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The most famous and important Supreme Court case of the 1700s involved a suit by a South Carolina man to recover a debt allegedly owed to him by the state of Georgia. Even though Georgia argued that it had sovereign immunity from the suit, the Supreme Court disagreed and ordered Georgia to pay.

The decision occasioned widespread protests throughout the country, and five years later, Congress passed the Eleventh Amendment, effectively depriving federal courts of jurisdiction over such cases.  Since then, courts have cited the Amendment in shielding states from most money-damage actions brought against them.


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