The 11th Amendment

States' Rights

The 11th Amendment

The 11th Amendment reads as follows: the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state. (Cornell: 11th Amendment) This means that states do not have to hear lawsuits based on federal law. States deal with state law, but individuals can sue states if they want to. Anti-Federalists were opposed to the Constitution itself as well as individual rights to sue a state in federal court. In opposition, the Federalists favored the Constitution, while being eager to see it passed.

Congress passed this amendment during the March 4th, 1794 session as this amendment was then ratified on February 7th, 1795. The Supreme Court had ruled that in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia that states were not sovereign in their immunity from suits made by citizens of the other states in federal court. Federal courts do not have the authority to hear cases brought by private citizens against states. (Wikipedia: Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution) However, Congress can overturn state immunity when using its authority under the bankruptcy clause that can mean the Feds have the right to tell states what the law is. The Bankruptcy clause is in Article III because a citizen of South Carolina sued Georgia for unpaid debts that had been piling up since the War of Independence.

To explain the Bankruptcy clause in more detail, we turn to Wikipedia, and it is listed as Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution. Federal law governs bankruptcy, not state law. The 11th Amendment was in fact, the first Constitutional Amendment adopted after the Bill Of Rights. (Wikipedia: Bankruptcy in the United States) The Amendment was on January 14, 1794 by 23-2. The 11th Amendment had also clarified Article III Section 2 of the Constitution. This Amendment was proposed on March 4th, 1794 while the House of Representatives voted 81-9 with passing the 11th Amendment. The President at the time was President John Adams, who sent a message to Congress that the 11th Amendment had been ratified. To pass an Amendment, the other States had to ratify this by a specific number of states. The 11th Amendment, however, does not include a state being sued by its own citizens. With the Chisholm vs. Georgia suit, however, it was ruled that his suit could continue in federal court versus state court.

In modern times, this suit process applies to states that have made abortion illegal such as Virginia and Alabama. (Self: Two States Just Passed Anti-Abortion Amendments That Could Make Abortion Illegal If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned) This had happened during the midterm elections of 2018. Alabama claims that fetuses have a right to life. Roe v. Wade was declared the law of the land in 1973. According to, states like Alabama and Virginia have the right to set up abortion restrictions based on state law, even if abortion is federally legalized despite the impact this will have on women’s health in general as well as reproductive rights. (Wikipedia: Roe v. Wade)

So in which case, the legal drinking age in some states is 21, while in others it is 18 with parental consent while drinking for religious reasons is allowed in 26 states, and in 16 states, drinking is allowed for medical purposes. Some 5 states allow drinking for government work purposes as in when somebody is undercover. Eight states allow drinking with parental approval. Not every state has the legal drinking age set to 21. However, as soon as you turn 18, you have the right to vote in California but in some states, the voting age is 17. (Wikipedia: Voting Age) In conclusion, the 11th Amendment is all about what states’ rights are as opposed to federal impositions.

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Iria Vasquez-Paez

I have a B.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State. Can people please donate? I'm very low-income. I need to start an escape the Ferengi plan. 

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