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Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioners, including Kimel (Petitioners), brought suit against the Respondents, the Florida Board of Regents (Respondents), a state employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Respondents argued that the ADEA does not effectively abrogate their sovereign immunity.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Legislation must be congruent and proportional to a legitimate end to abrogate sovereign immunity under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment (Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Facts. The Petitioners alleged they were fired by their state employers because of their age. Their employers argue that Petitioners cannot bring suit against them without offending state sovereign immunity.

    Issue. Does the ADEA effectively abrogate state sovereign immunity?

    Held. No. Appeals court ruling affirmed. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) holds that the ADEA punishes very few behaviors that are unconstitutional and it is not congruent or proportional to its purported ends.
    Sandra Day O’Connor describes a two-part test to determine whether an act of Congress abrogates Eleventh Amendment immunity: 1) whether Congress unequivocally expressed its intent to authorize suits against the states, and 2) whether it acted pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority.
    The ADEA clearly authorizes suits against state and local governments. However, Congress may only do so under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Congress does not have the power to determine the substance of the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, however (that authority is left to the federal courts), and age is not a suspect classification, as are race and gender. As such, the language of the ADEA is neither proportional nor congruent to its purported ends.

    Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) argued once more that the boundaries of federalism are best left to the political branches.

    Discussion. Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents illustrates that state sovereign immunity is a judicial doctrine wholly apart from the text of the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution, and that the Supreme Court will continue to apply this judicially created doctrine.


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