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Saturday, February 11, 2006


Amendment XI (the Eleventh Amendment) of the United States Constitution was passed by the Congress of the United States on March 4, 1794 and was ratified on February 7, 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 Amendment was passed after the Supreme Court of the United States 1792 ruling in Chisholm v. Georgia that Federal courts had the authority to hear cases in law and equity against states, and that states did not enjoy sovereign immunity from suits made by citizens of other states. The Amendment limits the jurisdiction of the Federal judicial system to exclude any suit initiated by a person against a state government. However, this does not limit the use of the Federal courts when a state consents to be sued, or when Congress in a valid exercise of its power abrogates state immunity from suit. See, e.g. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996). The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as granting Congress such power. See Congressional power of enforcement. Although the amendments text does not by its own terms include suits brought by a citizen against his own state, the Supreme Courts cases have found a broader principle of state sovereign immunity of which the Eleventh Amendment is but one example. Such immunity is commonly referred to as Eleventh Amendment immunity, though the court itself has referred to this designation as something of a misnomer Alden vs. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999).