The Eleventh Amendment Explained

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The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1795, addresses issues related to sovereign immunity. It states that citizens cannot sue a state in federal court without the state’s consent. This amendment was largely a response to the Supreme Court case Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), where the Court ruled that states could be sued by citizens of other states. The Eleventh Amendment clarified and restricted the scope of federal jurisdiction, protecting states from certain legal actions and reinforcing the principle of state sovereignty.

In practical terms, the amendment limits the ability of individuals to bring lawsuits against states in federal courts, creating a legal barrier to certain types of claims. It reflects the framers’ desire to balance federal and state powers and prevent federal intrusion into state affairs. However, the Eleventh Amendment does not provide states with absolute immunity, as there are exceptions and subsequent legal developments that have shaped the scope of immunity and allowed some lawsuits against states under specific circumstances. The amendment has been an integral part of constitutional law, influencing the balance between federal authority and state autonomy in the American legal system.