Raygor v. Regents of the Univ. of Minnesota

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Raygor v. Regents of the Univ. of Minn., 534 U.S. 533 (2002), was a 6-3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court applying the Eleventh Amendment in favor of sovereign immunity for the States.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the Court:[1]

When "Congress intends to alter the 'usual constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government,' it must make its intention to do so 'unmistakably clear in the language of the statute.'" Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45, 109 S. Ct. 2304 (1989) (quoting Atascadero, supra, at 242). This principle applies when Congress "intends to preempt the historic powers of the States" or when it legislates in "'traditionally sensitive areas'" that "'affect the federal balance.'" Will, supra, at 65 (quoting United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336, 349, 30 L. Ed. 2d 488, 92 S. Ct. 515 (1971)). In such cases, the clear statement principle reflects "an acknowledgment that the States retain substantial sovereign powers under our constitutional scheme, powers with which Congress does not readily interfere." Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 461, 464, 115 L. Ed. 2d 410, 111 S. Ct. 2395 (1991).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote separately in concurrence, relying on Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765, 787, 120 S. Ct. 1858, 146 L. Ed. 2d 836 (2000) and the principles enunciated above. Justices Breyer, Souter and Stevens dissented.


  1. 534 U.S. at 543-44.