Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida Case Brief

Summary of Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida
517 U. S. 44 (1996)


Facts: The Seminole Indian Tribe was attempting to set up gambling enterprises within the boundaries of the Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida. The Indian Gaming Act requires a compact between the Tribe and Florida. The Governor of FL and FL refused to enter into good faith negotiations for inclusion of certain gaming activities.

Issue: (1) Does the Eleventh Amendment prevent Congress from authorizing suits by Indian tribes against States for prospective injunctive relief to enforce legislation enacted pursuant to the Indian Commerce Clause?; and (2) Does the doctrine of Ex parte Young permit suits against a State’s Governor for prospective injunctive relief to enforce the good-faith bargaining requirement of the Act?

Holding: Yes and No

Procedure: Res moved for dismissal at D. Ct. DENIED> Ct App. reversed, Suit dismissed lack of jurisdiction. S. Ct. Affirmed.

Rule: A3S1: 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 US by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State. A1S10C3: No State shall without Consent of Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power. . . .

Ct. Rationale: It is clearly stated in the Act that Congress has “unequivocally expressed its intent to abrogate the State’s sovereign immunity. Congress has not acted “pursuant to a valid exercise of power." It is fundamental that Congress could not expand the jurisdiction of the federal courts beyond the bounds of Article III. As the dissent in [Union Gas] made clear, [Fitzpatrick] cannot be read to justify “limitation of the principle embodied in the Eleventh Amendment through appeal to antecedent provisions of the Constitution.” The 11th Amendment is not so ephemeral as to dissipate when the subject of the suit is an area that is under the exclusive control of the Fed. Government. Even when the Const. vests in Congress complete law making authority over a particular area, the 11th Amend. Prevents congressional authorization of suits by private parties against unconsenting states.

Minority View – There is no state sovereign immunity, recognized in Fed. Ct., when abrogated by legislation by Congress.

PL A : (Pet/Seminole)Congress through the Act abrogated(abolished) the States’ sovereign immunity and the Governor of Florida is a government official separate from that State’s immunity.

Def A: (Resp/Governor) Congress does not have the power to abrogate the State’s immunity nor to make the Governor liable to suit under the Act.

Notes from Case

Abrogation – abolishment established fact.

Indubitable – absolute, without doubt, certain.

The Indian Commerce Clause accomplishes a greater transfer of power from the States to the Federal Government than does the Interstate Commerce Clause. This is clear enough from the fact that the States still exercise some authority over interstate trade but have been divested of virtually all authority over Indian commerce and Indian tribes.

ACT (Sub Rule) – Certain Gaming activities may be conducted on Indian Reservations only when in conformance with a compact between the tribe and the state the activities are located in.

[UNION GAS] Rule – The Interstate Commerce Clause granted Congress the power to abrogate state sovereign immunity, where the power to regulate interstate commerce would be “incomplete without the authority to render States liable in damages."

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