Limits to a state’s sovereign immunity: Alden v. Maine.
A state can be sued for failing to honor the constitution.
Suing states in state court for violation of federal laws
i. The Supreme Court has held that reference to the states’ immunity from suit as “Eleventh Amendment immunity” is “convenient shorthand but something of a misnomer, for the sovereign immunity of the States neither derives from, nor is limited by, the terms of the Eleventh Amendment.” Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 713 (1999). Although by its terms the 11th Amendment does not apply to actions in state courts, id. at 735-736, the Supreme Court has held that the states’ “constitutional immunity from suit is not limited to the text of the Amendment,” id. at 736, and the states “retain immunity from private suit in their own courts . . . [that is] beyond the congressional power to abrogate by Article I legislation.” Id. at 754.
ii. The limits on this sovereign immunity include:
(1) The “good faith” of the states, that they will not refuse to honor “obligations imposed by the Constitution and by federal statutes that comport with the constitutional design.” Id. at 755.
(2) Claims for which the states have consented to suit. Id. at 755.
(3) Claims against states by other states or the federal government. Id. at 755.
(4) Suits in which immunity is abrogated pursuant to Congress’ 14th Amendment authority. Id. at 756.
(5) Suits against local government entities. Id. at 756. See § 4 below.