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Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida

    Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners brought suit under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which authorizes suits against state governments to enforce good faith negotiations with tribes attempting to allow gambling on reservations.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Indian Commerce Clause does not allow Congress to abrogate state sovereign immunity.

    Facts. Petitioners sued the state of Florida, seeking to enforce good faith negotiation as required under the Indian Gamin Regulatory Act. Respondent argues that as a sovereign state, Congress cannot make it appear in federal court without abrogating its sovereign immunity.

    Issue. May Congress allow suit against a state under the Indian Commerce Clause, Art. I, Section: 8, cl. 3?

    Held. No. Holding affirmed.
    Congress made clear in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that it intended to abrogate States’ sovereign immunity. However, it lacks the ability to do so under its Article I powers.
    Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment is the only authority Congress has to authorize a private suit against a state.

    Dissent.
    Justice John Paul Stevens believes the Eleventh Amendment only prohibits suits against a state by citizens of another state.
    Justice David Souter argues that the majority gives the states sovereign immunity that they did not enjoy, even prior to the ratification of the constitution.

    Discussion. The current Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence does not focus on the clear text of the Eleventh Amendment, but rather the interpretation of the judicial doctrine of sovereign immunity, which acts as a bar against bringing suit against a state defendant.


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