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Law School Case Brief

Hans v. Louisiana - 134 U.S. 1, 10 S. Ct. 504 (1890)


U.S. Const. amend. XI is interpreted to hold that a state cannot be sued by a citizen of another state, or of a foreign state, on the mere ground that the case is one arising under the United States Constitution or laws.


Plaintiff Hans, a citizen of Louisiana, brought suit in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana to recover the amount of certain coupons annexed to bonds of defendant, the State of Louisiana, issued under the provisions of an act of the legislature approved January 24, 1874. The bonds were known and designated as the "consolidated bonds of the State of Louisiana," and the coupons sued upon were for interest which accrued January 1, 1880. The State filed a motion to dismiss the action, which was granted by the circuit court.


Could Louisiana be sued in federal court by Hans upon a suggestion that the case arose under the Constitution or laws of the United States?




The Court held that a citizen could not sue a state unless the state consented to jurisdiction. The Court based this decision on a historical analysis of sovereignty, as well as an examination of the purpose behind U.S. Const. amend. XI. Because defendant had not consented to jurisdiction in Hans' action, the Court could not exercise jurisdiction over the matter even if there were legal grounds for the underlying suit. The circuit court's order was affirmed.

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