Study Guide

Constitution - 11th Amendment

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11th Amendment

Passed by Congress: 4 March 1794
Ratified: 7 February 1795

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 first post-Bill of Rights amendment to gain ratification, the Eleventh Amendment was a reaction against what many scholars view as the first Supreme Court decision of any great significance, the 1793 case of Chisholm v. Georgia. The issue in dispute was whether citizens of one state (or a foreign country) had a right to sue another state in federal court. Article III, Section 2 seemed to say yes, they did. In Chisholm v. Georgia, the Supreme Court agreed. But many states felt that such broad use of the federal court system to bring lawsuits against the various state governments would undermine the idea of federalism, shifting too much power from the states to the national government. Less than a year after the Supreme Court delivered its decision, Congress passed the Eleventh Amendment, which effectively overruled the court's decision by explicitly removing from federal court jurisdiction all cases in which the citizen of one state (or a foreign nation) sought to sue another state. Twelve of the fifteen states that then existed ratified the amendment within a year.

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