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Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer

    Brief Fact Summary. In 1972, Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Act), authorizing private suits for monetary damages. In doing so, Congress cited its authority under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment (Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress may authorize private suits against states under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment that are impermissible in other contexts.

    Facts. In 1972, Congress amended the Act authorizing private suits for monetary damages, citing its authority under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Appellant argues that the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution grant of sovereign immunity to the States prevents Congress from authorizing such suits.

    Issue. Can Congress abridge sovereign immunity by exercising its authority under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment?

    Held. Yes. Affirmed. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) notes that Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment allows Congress to exercise authority that infringes on areas otherwise relegated to other entities under the Constitution. Because of the Section: 5 grant of this authority, the Supreme Court allows Congress to abrogate sovereign immunity under the section, as well.

    Points of Law - for Law School Success

    When Congress acts pursuant to § 5, not only is it exercising legislative authority that is plenary within the terms of the constitutional grant, it is exercising that authority under one section of a constitutional Amendment whose other sections by their own terms embody limitations on state authority.

    View Full Point of Law
    Discussion. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer is the first case in the Rehnquist Court’s expanding view of the Eleventh Amendment.


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