The sovereign immunity refers to the fact that the government cannot be sued without its consent. Overview

Sovereign immunity was derived from British common law doctrine based on the idea that the King could do no wrong. In the United States, sovereign immunity typically applies to the federal government and state government, but not to municipalities. Federal and state governments, however, have the ability to waive their sovereign immunity. The federal government did this when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waived federal immunity for numerous types of torts claims.


Does the sovereign immunity clause prevent the federal government from suing states through the federal court in any situation? Also, does it prevent the federal government suing states in their own courts or only the federal court?

I understand that people can't sue governments and states, but I am wondering if this restriction applies to the federal government as well. The other question is whether there are exceptions to this sovereign immunity.

1 Answer 1


No. As a superior sovereign, the United States can sue states in federal court without restriction. I’m not sure if that would apply in state court, but the federal government doesn’t generally file cases in state court to begin with.

States can also sue each other in federal court, having waived their immunity to lawsuits brought by other states when they agreed to Article III of the Constitution (although Congress has said that these lawsuits must be filed directly in the Supreme Court).

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