Friday, November 15, 2013

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida case brief

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida case brief summary
517 U.S. 44 (1996)

Petitioner tribe challenged a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which determined that U.S. Constitutional amendment XI, barred the tribe's suit alleging a violation of 25 U.S.C.S. § 2710(d)(3) by respondent State and respondent governor.

The tribe sued the State and its governor, alleging that they refused to enter into any negotiation for the inclusion of gaming activities in a tribal-state compact thereby violating 25 U.S.C.S. § 2710(d)(3). In their unsuccessful motion to dismiss the complaint, the State and the governor asserted that the suit violated the State's sovereign immunity under U.S. Constitutional amendment XI. The State and the governor took an interlocutory appeal of the decision that denied their motion to dismiss. The appellate court reversed, holding that amendment XI, barred the tribe's suit.


  • On certiorari, the Court affirmed because amendment XI, prohibited Congress from making the State capable of being sued in federal court. 
  • In reaching its conclusion, the Court specifically overruled its decision in Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1, 105 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1989). 
  • The Court further held that the narrow exception to immunity provided under Ex parte Young was not applicable.


The judgment barring petitioner tribe's suit under the Eleventh Amendment was affirmed where the Court overruled its decision in Union Gas and concluded that notwithstanding Congress' clear intent to abrogate states' sovereign immunity through the gaming act, the Indian Commerce Clause did not grant Congress that power.

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