Guide Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida 517 U.S. 44 (1996) (LandMark Case Law)

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Contents:
  1. Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996)
  2. Supreme Court Ducks Sovereign Immunity Question A Recap of the Remaining Circuit Conflicts | ABI
  3. The Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990

In response, the MESA has argued that Congress cannot abrogate Michigan's sovereign immunity under the Bankruptcy Power, and therefore, that the Court should dismiss the instant appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Appellant, however, contends that Michigan has waived its sovereign immunity in this matter because on July 15, and on dates thereafter, the MESA filed proofs of claim against the instant bankruptcy estate.

Because jurisdiction is a threshold issue, the Court must resolve it before turning to the merits of the appeal. See U. For the purposes of this case, the starting point for an analysis of sovereign immunity in relation to the Bankruptcy Code is the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman v. Connecticut Department of Income Maintenance, U.

The Plurality held that Congress had not because this intention was not clear in the statutory language.

In Seminole Tribe of Florida, the relevant question presented was: "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? In finding that Congress lacked this abrogation power under the Indian Commerce Clause, the Court stated broadly that under no other power except the Fourteenth Amendment could Congress abrogate States' Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, thereby overturning the Court's plurality decision in Pennsylvania v.

Union Gas Co. Indeed, the Court stated that, under Article I of the Constitution, Congress simply cannot expand the scope of the federal courts' jurisdiction under Article III because Article III "set[s] forth the exclusive catalog of permissible federal court jurisdiction. In so holding, the Court noted that, aside from Union Gas, supra, U. Nevertheless, the Court noted that its decision presumed sovereign immunity, which the Court recognized a State could still waive by consenting to the suit at issue.

John Griffin Black Seminole descendant and Historian.

In the instant matter, pursuant to 11 U. Mansour, U. Scanlon, U. Then, in section b , Congress waives the sovereign immunity of the States to the extent that a claim in the bankruptcy proceedings against a State involves the same transaction or occurrence that is the subject of a proof of claim that the State filed. The distinction that Congress has attempted to draw, however, must fail because the intent to abrogate in section a and the intent to "conditionally abrogate" in section b are in substance and function the same.

First, only the States themselves may waive their own sovereign immunity, regardless of whether Congress has the power of abrogation. See Atascadero State Hospital, supra, U. Second, and as a consequence of the first, when Congress dictates the circumstances of waiver to the States, it becomes the "functional equivalent" of abrogation because in either case Congress is determining when States will be amenable to suit.

AER-Aerotron, Inc. Texas Dep't of Transportation, F. Thus, Congress' intent to abrogate sovereign immunity in section a is no different than its intent to "conditionally abrogate" or to waive sovereign immunity in section b since both sections make Congress, and neither the States nor the courts, the final arbiter of State sovereign immunity. The Court's analysis here is directly supported by a recent decision from the Fourth Circuit. In re Creative Goldsmiths, supra, F. Put simply, whether Congress says "abrogate" or "deem to be waived" it clearly intends abrogation because either phrase has the same substantive and practical effect, namely Congress alone is determining when States will be subject to suit.

Hoffman, supra, U. However, under Seminole Tribe of Florida, supra, Congress may only abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity when it is acting pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. Wyoming, U. Caviness, 99 F. However, due to the implications for State sovereignty, courts "should not quickly attribute to Congress an unstated intent to act under its authority to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.

Halderman, U. The Sixth Circuit has recently distilled these principles into the following test: "[I]f Congress does not explicitly identify the source of its power as the Fourteenth Amendment, there must be something about the act connecting it to recognized Fourteenth Amendment aims. In the absence of this nexus, therefore, a court should conclude that the statute at issue was not enacted pursuant to Congress' powers under the Fourteenth Amendment. See In re Creative Goldsmiths, supra, F. If the Fourteenth Amendment is held to apply so broadly as to justify Congress' enactment of the Bankruptcy Code as a requirement of due process, then the same argument would justify every federal enforcement scheme as a requirement of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment".

Therefore, the Court finds that Congress did not enact 11 U. See In re Creative Goldsmiths, supra,, F. See Parden v. Terminal Railway of Ala. State Docks Dept. A State waives its immunity and consents to suit in federal court: 1 by specific declaration or by act, such as filing a general appearance, or by the State becoming a plaintiff or an intervenor in the federal lawsuit.

Gardner v. New Jersey, U. Fiske, U. Barnard, U. Here, it is undisputed that the State of Michigan has not by declaration or by legislation waived its sovereign immunity to suits in federal court. See Van Antwerp v. State, Mich. Michigan, F. Moreover, the MESA has not filed a general appearance in federal court, even though it has defended the preference action against it in the Bankruptcy Court and in this Court. See Edelman v. Jordan, U. The MESA, however, contends that it has not consented to this suit because its proofs of claim cannot be considered consent to the instant preference action, which amounts to, essentially, an unrelated "offensive" counterclaim.

The controlling precedent on the waiver of sovereign immunity in bankruptcy proceedings is Gardner v. State of New Jersey, U. In Gardner, the State of New Jersey filed a claim for unpaid taxes against the debtor. Faced with objections to the claim by other creditors, the State contended that a determination of the amount or priority of its claim would constitute an impermissible suit against it as a sovereign. In finding that the priority and amount of the State's tax lien was within the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court, the Supreme Court observed that:.

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

Gardner, supra, U. In re Friendship Medical Center, Ltd. People of State of New York, F.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over a counterclaim brought against a state only if the counterclaim arises from the same event underlying the state's cause of action, and only if the claimant asserts his or her claim defensively by way of recoupment to defeat or diminish the state's recovery" ; Woelffer v. Happy States of America, Inc. Thereafter, the debtor sought to recover the garnished funds as a preferential transfer. Specifically, the Court found that the debtor's preference claim and the United States' claim for the funds owed were not sufficiently related for the purposes of establishing a compulsory counterclaim under Fed.

Rebel Coal, F.

Supreme Court Ducks Sovereign Immunity Question A Recap of the Remaining Circuit Conflicts | ABI

Here, the Court reasoned that the claims raised different issues of fact and law since litigation of the preference claim looked only at the issue of preferential payment, while the civil penalties would require analysis of the Mine Safety and Health Act and the debtor's allegedly violative conduct. Kentucky Fin. Moreover, it is highly analogous to the instant matter because the transfer to the MESA satisfied in part the overall tax obligation which is the basis for the MESA's proofs of claim. In its pleadings, however, Appellant urges the Court to find that the Supreme Court's decisions in Langenkamp v.

The Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990

Culp, U. Nordberg, U. The Court finds Appellant's argument unpersuasive because it finds no parallel between these cases, which deal with the waiver of the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, and the subject at issue here, a State's waiver of its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. In Granfinanciera, S. In dicta, the Court stated that if the person had filed a claim, the Court would reach a different result because then the person would be deemed to have triggered the "allowance and disallowance of claims" which is triable in equity.

In Langenkamp, supra, the Supreme Court held that creditors who filed claims against a debtor's bankruptcy estate had waived their Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury when they were in turn sued by the bankruptcy trustee to recover allegedly preferential transfers. Specifically, the Court found that when the creditors filed their proofs of claim, they had subjected themselves to the Bankruptcy Court's equitable power:. These decisions are simply not relevant to this Court's inquiry here. The threshold question of jurisdiction itself was not before the Court in either of these cases.

This question, however, was precisely the one that the Court answered in Gardner, supra. Therefore, the Court finds no reason to deviate from the plain language of Gardner itself. Relying on Gardner, the Court finds that the MESA has not consented to this preference action because the resolution of the preference action is not part of adjudicating the proofs of claim that the MESA filed.


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See also, Rebel Coal, supra, F. A different result would transform the MESA's proofs of claim into a lawsuit against the MESA which seeks a monetary judgment from the State treasury over and above the resolution of the proofs of claim. The Eleventh Amendment and this Nation's bedrock principles of comity and federalism plainly prohibit this. The Florida Prepaid case turned on whether either of these two circumstances were present. In Chavez v. Senate and House Bills and H. Absent a waiver within the time permitted, the state shall not be permitted to seek remedies under the patent, trademark or copyright laws.

Adoption of legislation along the lines proposed by Senator Leahy and Representative Coble is warranted and necessary. Until a sound legislative solution is implemented, the unjust and off-balance state of affairs will persist. Mulholland may be e-mailed at mmulholland rmfpc. The three cases were College Savings Bank v.

Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd. College Savings Bank, S. Maine , S.