The Dignity of the States and Federalism in Sossamon v. Texas

November 2nd, 2010

An interesting exchange in Sossamon v. Texas discussing a state’s dignity and sovereign immunity:

JUSTICEĀ GINSBURG: And I think that the -the core question here is the State — and Justice Alito just posed it: the State is being treated with less dignity than the Federal Government, because your position is that the Federal Government is shielded by its sovereign immunity, and you say the State is not.
MS. HARRINGTON: On the contrary, as to the dignity point, Your Honor, if — the State voluntarily waives its immunity when it accepts Federal funds that clearly condition the acceptance of the funds on the waiver of its immunity. The State in this case doesn’t contest that it has waived its sovereign immunity voluntarily to some universe of suits to enforce RLUIPA.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: But we are talking about general principles of interpretation and the proposition that we are suggesting is that the State surely should be entitled to the same dignity, the same protection against suits as the Federal Government, and you suggest just the opposite.
MS. HARRINGTON: No, Your Honor.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: And it seems to me that’s contrary to standard principles of the Federal — of protecting the Federal balance.