Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 87 (1996)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 94-12. Argued October 11, 1995—Decided March 27, 1996

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, passed by Congress pursuant to the

Indian Commerce Clause, allows an Indian tribe to conduct certain gaming activities only in conformance with a valid compact between the tribe and the State in which the gaming activities are located. 25 U. S. C. 2710(d)(1)(C). Under the Act, States have a duty to negotiate in good faith with a tribe toward the formation of a compact, 2710(d)(3)(A), and a tribe may sue a State in federal court in order to compel performance of that duty, 2710(d)(7). In this 2710(d)(7) suit, respondents, Florida and its Governor, moved to dismiss petitioner Seminole Tribe's complaint on the ground that the suit violated Florida's sovereign immunity from suit in federal court. The District Court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the Indian Commerce Clause did not grant Congress the power to abrogate the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity and that Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123, does not permit an Indian tribe to force good-faith negotiations by suing a State's Governor.

Held: 1. The Eleventh Amendment prevents Congress from authorizing suits by Indian tribes against States to enforce legislation enacted pursuant to the Indian Commerce Clause. Pp. 54-73. (a) The Eleventh Amendment presupposes that each State is a sovereign entity in our federal system and that " '[i]t is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual without [a State's] consent.' " Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U. S. 1, 13. However, Congress may abrogate the States' sovereign immunity if it has "unequivocally expresse[d] its intent to abrogate the immunity" and has acted "pursuant to a valid exercise of power." Green v. Mansour, 474 U. S. 64, 68. Here, through the numerous references to the "State" in 2710(d)(7)(B)'s text, Congress provided an "unmistakably clear" statement of its intent to abrogate. Pp. 54-57. (b) The inquiry into whether Congress has the power to abrogate unilaterally the States' immunity from suit is narrowly focused on a single question: Was the Act in question passed pursuant to a constitutional provision granting Congress such power? This Court has found authority to abrogate under only two constitutional provisions: the

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