GOVERNMENT - Attorneys and the Law
The 11th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides state protection from lawsuits brought by their citizens, commonly known as "state immunity." While this makes it difficult to sue a state and recover damages, it is not impossible. Currently, there are a handful of legal exceptions to state immunity. When contemplating suing a state, a potential plaintiff must identify why they intend to sue, under what law they are filing under, and what remedy they desire. With the complexity of federal and state laws involved in suing a state or municipality, it is strongly advised to consult with an experienced government attorney.
How to Sue a State
Generally, states are immune from lawsuits unless they waive their immunity expressly. Such immunity protects states from being sued for potential violations of the Constitution or any federal laws. However, the federal government may require the waiving of "state immunity" as a condition for receiving federal funds. There are some jurisdictions that will allow a citizen to sue a state under very limited circumstances such as certain ADA or other civil rights claims. This is rare, and it is important to understand that a person is generally unable to sue a state for damages caused by a law or by state officials. Consult a government attorney for questions about a specific case to see if state immunity applies.
Alternatives to Suing a State
Generally, a party that is unable to sue a state may be able to file their lawsuit against an individual representing the state. For example, in order to effectively sue a state to overturn a law, a party may be able to sue the governor or other public official enforcing the law, because the official's actions have caused a party injury and they are not protected by state immunity. The legal procedures involved with suing a state official can be complicated and time consuming; a lawyer specializing in this area of law should be contacted.