An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

The Seminole Tribe of Florida sued the state of Florida in federal court for violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Here, the state did not wave its sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court held that Congress could not use its Commerce Clause powers to abrogate Florida’s sovereign immunity.

Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion for a 5-4 Court. He quoted Hans v. Louisiana’s rejection of a literal interpretation of the Eleventh Amendment: “Although the text of the Amendment would appear to restrict only the Article III diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts, ‘we have understood the Eleventh Amendment to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition . . . which it confirms.’ ”

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