Chisholm v. Georgia

Chisholm v. Georgia

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Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419 (1793), is considered the first United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 case of significance and impact. Given its date, there is little available legal precedent (particularly in American law). It was almost immediately superseded by the Eleventh Amendment
Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794, and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state's sovereign immunity. This amendment was adopted in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Chisholm v...

.

Background of the case


In 1792 in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, Alexander Chisholm, the executor of the estate of Robert Farquhar, attempted to sue the state of Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 in the Supreme Court over payments due him for goods that Farquhar had supplied Georgia during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. United States Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

  argued the case for the plaintiff
Plaintiff
A plaintiff , also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court...

 before the Court. The defendant, Georgia, refused to appear, claiming that, as a "sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

" state, it could not be sued without granting its consent to the suit.

The Court’s decision


In a 4 to 1 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, with Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 and Associate Justices John Blair
John Blair
John Blair, Jr. was an American politician, Founding Father and jurist.Blair was one of the best-trained jurists of his day. A famous legal scholar, he avoided the tumult of state politics, preferring to work behind the scenes...

, James Wilson
James Wilson
James Wilson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Wilson was elected twice to the Continental Congress, and was a major force in drafting the United States Constitution...

, and William Cushing
William Cushing
William Cushing was an early Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, from its inception to his death. He was the longest-serving of the Court's original members, sitting on the bench for 21 years...

 constituting the majority; only Justice Iredell
James Iredell
James Iredell was one of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by President George Washington and served from 1790 until his death in 1799...

 dissented. (In that time, there was no "opinion of the Court" or "majority opinion"; the Justices delivered their opinions individually and in ascending order of seniority.) The Court argued that Article 3, Section 2, of the Constitution abrogated the States’ sovereign immunity
Sovereign immunity
Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a legal doctrine by which the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution....

 and granted federal courts the affirmative power to hear disputes between private citizens and States.

Subsequent developments


Mostly because of Chisholm v. Georgia, the Eleventh Amendment
Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was passed by the Congress on March 4, 1794, and was ratified on February 7, 1795, deals with each state's sovereign immunity. This amendment was adopted in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Chisholm v...

 was ratified in 1795. This removed federal jurisdiction in cases where citizens of one state or of foreign countries attempt to sue another state. However, citizens of one state or of foreign countries can still use the Federal courts if the state consents to be sued, or if Congress, pursuant to a valid exercise of Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 remedial powers, abrogates the states’ immunity from suit. See, e.g., Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer
Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer
Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 , was a United States Supreme Court decision that determined that the U.S. Congress has the power to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity of the states, if this is done pursuant to its Fourteenth Amendment power to enforce upon the states the...

, 427 U.S. 445 (1976).

Sources

  • Jean Edward Smith
    Jean Edward Smith
    Jean Edward Smith, Ph.D is professor at Marshall University and biographer. Currently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto after having served as professor of political economy there for thirty-five years...

    , John Marshall: Definer Of A Nation, New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1996.
  • Jean Edward Smith
    Jean Edward Smith
    Jean Edward Smith, Ph.D is professor at Marshall University and biographer. Currently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto after having served as professor of political economy there for thirty-five years...

    , The Constitution And American Foreign Policy, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1989.
  • William Anderson LaBach, The Supreme Court Fails Its First Test: Chisholm v. Georgia, Saarbrücken, Germany, VDM Verlag, 2009.