WASHINGTON—At the urging of California and 45 other states, the Supreme Court has overturned a 40-year-old precedent that allowed states to be sued in the courts of other states.
The 5–4 decision on May 13 pitted the court’s conservative and liberal wings against each other. The conservatives voted to overturn a landmark 1979 decision known as Nevada v. Hall because, in their view, the states’ “sovereign immunity is a historically rooted principle embedded in the text and structure of the Constitution.”
Although the legal doctrine justifying the following of precedent, stare decisis, which is Latin for “to stand by things decided,” remains important, it is “not an inexorable command” and is “at its weakest when we interpret the Constitution because our interpretation can be altered only by constitutional amendment,” the court ruled this week.
Last year, 45 other states filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging reversal of Nevada v. Hall, arguing the decision “is—and always has been—irreconcilable with the Court’s larger body of sovereign immunity decisions.”
“States all too frequently find themselves the targets of private-plaintiff lawsuits filed in the courts of other States … [which] not only insult the sovereign dignity of defendant States, but also pose the real risk of exposing States to judgments unrestrained by any concern for local fiscal impact.” more here