Ex parte New York

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In Ex parte New York, 256 U.S. 490 (1921) the U.S. Supreme Court considered a federal lawsuit in rem against tugboats charted by a state for damage caused to private canal boats. The Court held in favor of the state on sovereign immunity grounds, issuing it a writ of prohibition to protect it. The Court first held that admiralty suits against tugboats chartered by the state constituted a lawsuit against the state which could not be maintained without the state's consent.

In an oft-quoted statement, the unanimous Court declared:[1]

That a State may not be sued without its consent is a fundamental rule of jurisprudence having so important a bearing upon the construction of the Constitution of the United States that it has become established by repeated decisions of this court that the entire judicial power granted by the Constitution does not embrace authority to entertain a suit brought by private parties against a State without consent given: not one brought by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of a foreign State, because of the Eleventh Amendment; and not even one brought by its own citizens, because of the fundamental rule of which the Amendment is but an exemplification. Beers v. Arkansas, 20 How. 527, 529; Railroad Co. v. Tennessee, 101 U.S. 337, 339; Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10-17; North Carolina v. Temple, 134 U.S. 22, 30; Fitts v. McGhee, 172 U.S. 516, 524; Palmer v. Ohio, 248 U.S. 32, 34; Duhne v. New Jersey, 251 U.S. 311, 313.


  1. 256 U.S. at 497.