Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999)

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

No. 98-531. Argued April 20, 1999—Decided June 23, 1999

After the Patent and Plant Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act

(Act) amended the patent laws to expressly abrogate the States' sovereign immunity, respondent College Savings Bank filed a patent infringement suit against petitioner Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expenses Board (Florida Prepaid), a Florida state entity. When this Court decided Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U. S. 44, Florida Prepaid moved to dismiss the action, claiming that the Act was an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to use its Article I powers to abrogate state sovereign immunity. College Savings countered that Congress had properly exercised its power pursuant to 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to enforce the due process guarantees in 1 of the Amendment. The United States intervened to defend the statute's constitutionality. Agreeing with College Savings, the District Court denied the motion, and the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Held: The Act's abrogation of States' sovereign immunity is invalid because it cannot be sustained as legislation enacted to enforce the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Pp. 634-648.

(a) Florida has not expressly consented to suit, or impliedly waived its immunity, see College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd., post, p. 666. To determine whether the Act nonetheless validly abrogated that immunity, the Court must ask: first, whether Congress has " 'unequivocally expresse[d] its intent to abrogate,' " and second, whether Congress acted " 'pursuant to a valid exercise of power.' " Seminole Tribe, supra, at 55. Congress clearly made known its intent to abrogate in the Act. Whether it had the power to do so is another matter. In Seminole Tribe, this Court held that Congress does not have such power under Article I but reaffirmed its holding in Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U. S. 445, that Congress has such power under 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, legislation that is "appropriate" under 5, as that term was construed in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, could abrogate state sovereignty. Since Congress' enforcement power is remedial, id., at 519, to invoke 5, Congress


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