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Why Georgia can’t be sued in federal court

by merlin on March 8th, 2014
  • Sumo

Section 50-21-23 sets out the limited waiver of the State of Georgia of its “sovereign immunity”.  This term is defined under the heading “governmental immunity” as “n. the doctrine from English common law that no governmental body can be sued unless it gives permission. This protection resulted in terrible injustices, since public hospitals, government drivers and other employees could be negligent with impunity (free) from judgment. The Federal Tort Claims Act and state waivers of immunity (with specific claims systems) have negated this rule, which stemmed from the days when kings set prerogatives.” At http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=824.  Essentially, no “sovereign” can be sued unless they permit themselves to be sued, and then only where and when they permit themselves to be sued.  Therefore, even a relatively egregious and horrific act by a State might go unremedied as long as the conditions to right it aren’t present:

 

§ 50-21-23. Limited waiver of sovereign immunity

  • (a)  The state waives its sovereign immunity for the torts of state officers and employees while acting within the scope of their official duties or employment and shall be liable for such torts in the same manner as a private individual or entity would be liable under like circumstances; provided, however, that the state’s sovereign immunity is waived subject to all exceptions and limitations set forth in this article. The state shall have no liability for losses resulting from conduct on the part of state officers or employees which was not within the scope of their official duties or employment.
  • (b)  The state waives its sovereign immunity only to the extent and in the manner provided in this article and only with respect to actions brought in the courts of the State of Georgia. The state does not waive any immunity with respect to actions brought in the courts of the United States.

 

 

§ 50-21-24 sets out the exceptions to the State’s waiver of sovereign immunity.  As you can read, these exceptions are very, very limited:

 

The state shall have no liability for losses resulting from:

 

 

(1) An act or omission by a state officer or employee exercising due care in the execution of a statute, regulation, rule, or ordinance, whether or not such statute, regulation, rule, or ordinance is valid;

 

 

(2) The exercise or performance of or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a state officer or employee, whether or not the discretion involved is abused;

 

 

(3) The assessment or collection of any tax or the detention of any goods or merchandise by any law enforcement officer;

 

 

(4) Legislative, judicial, quasi-judicial, or prosecutorial action or inaction;

 

 

(5) Administrative action or inaction of a legislative, quasi-legislative, judicial, or quasi-judicial nature;

 

 

(6) Civil disturbance, riot, insurrection, or rebellion or the failure to provide, or the method of providing, law enforcement, police, or fire protection;

 

 

(7) Assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, or interference with contractual rights;

 

 

(8) Inspection powers or functions, including failure to make an inspection or making an inadequate or negligent inspection of any property other than property owned by the state to determine whether the property complies with or violates any law, regulation, code, or ordinance or contains a hazard to health or safety;

 

 

(9) Licensing powers or functions, including, but not limited to, the issuance, denial, suspension, or revocation of or the failure or refusal to issue, deny, suspend, or revoke any permit, license, certificate, approval, order, or similar authorization;

 

 

 

(10) The plan or design for construction of or improvement to highways, roads, streets, bridges, or other public works where such plan or design is prepared in substantial compliance with generally accepted engineering or design standards in effect at the time of preparation of the plan or design;

 

 

(11) Financing regulatory activities, including, but not limited to, examinations, inspections, audits, or other financial oversight activities;

 

 

(12) Activities of the Georgia National Guard when engaged in state or federal training or duty, but this exception does not apply to vehicular accidents; or

 

 

(13) Any failure or malfunction occurring before December 31, 2005, which is caused directly or indirectly by the failure of computer software or any device containing a computer processor to accurately or properly recognize, calculate, display, sort, or otherwise process dates or times, if the failure or malfunction causing the loss was unforeseeable or if the failure or malfunction causing the loss was foreseeable but the plan or design or both for identifying and preventing the failure or malfunction was prepared in substantial compliance with generally accepted computer and information system design standards in effect at the time of the preparation of the plan or design.

 

 

 

Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (Copy citation)

Supreme Court of the United States

February 22, 1983, Argued ; January 23, 1984, Decided

No. 81-2101

Reporter: 465 U.S. 89 | 104 S. Ct. 900 | 79 L. Ed. 2d 67 | 1984 U.S. LEXIS 4 | 52 U.S.L.W. 4155

PENNHURST STATE SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL ET AL. v. HALDERMAN ET AL.

Subsequent History:

Reargued October 3, 1983.

Prior History:

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Disposition:

673 F.2d 647, reversed and remanded.

Core Terms

law, claim, state law, sovereign, state official, authority, constitutional, jurisdiction, violated, acts, sovereign immunity, federal court, doctrine, question, relief, dissent, basis, decision, appeal, statute, barred, state-law, immunity, pendent, power, rule, order, injunctive relief, part, principle

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Petitioners, state institutions for the mentally handicapped and state officials, sought review of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in favor of respondent patients, which ordered petitioners to conform their conduct to state law regarding patient care. Petitioners contended, among other things, that the lower court’s decision was prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment.

Overview

Petitioners challenged the decision of the federal appellate court in favor of respondent patients, affirming a district court judgment that ordered petitioners to conform their conduct to a state law on patient care. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that federal courts lacked jurisdiction under U.S. Const. amend. XI to enjoin petitioners’ actions on the basis of a state law. The record showed that the officials acted in good faith; thus, any state law violation was caused by the state itself in not having fulfilled its legislative promises. Federal courts had no jurisdiction because the relief was sought was against the state. The Court held that federal courts did not have pendent jurisdiction over respondents’ claims because pendent jurisdiction could not override the Eleventh Amendment. Federal courts had to examine each claim and determine if their jurisdiction was barred by the amendment. Policy considerations could not override the constitutional limitation on the federal judiciary to adjudicate suits against respondents. Federal courts also had no jurisdiction over the claims against a county because the relief sought ran to the state.

Outcome

The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment and held that federal courts lacked jurisdiction, pursuant to U.S. Const. amend. XI, to order petitioners to conform their conduct to state law on patient care. Respondents’ claims were against the state, therefore, the federal judiciary had no jurisdiction.

LexisNexis® HeadnotesHide

Civil Procedure > … > Justiciability > Case & Controversy Requirements > General Overview
Civil Procedure > … > Jurisdiction > Subject Matter Jurisdiction > General Overview
Constitutional Law > The Judiciary > Jurisdiction > General Overview

HN1 U.S. Const. art. III, § 2 provides that the federal judicial power extends, inter alia, to controversies between a State and citizens of another State.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN2 See U.S. Const. amend. XI.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN3 That a state may not be sued without its consent is a fundamental rule of jurisprudence having so important a bearing upon the construction of the Constitution of the United States that it has become established by repeated decisions of that the entire judicial power granted by the Constitution does not embrace authority to entertain a suit brought by private parties against a state without consent given: not one brought by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of a foreign state, because of U.S. Const. amend. XI; and not even one brought by its own citizens, because of the fundamental rule of which the Eleventh Amendment is but an exemplification.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > StateImmunity

HN4 A sovereign’s immunity may be waived, and the United States Supreme Court consistently has held that a state may consent to suit against it in federal court. The Court has insisted, however, that the state’s consent be unequivocally expressed.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Governments > State & Territorial Governments > Claims By & Against

HN5 A state’s constitutional interest in immunity encompasses not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN6 A state’s waiver of sovereign immunity in its own courts is not a waiver of theEleventh Amendment immunity in the federal courts.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN7 In the absence of consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Civil Procedure > Parties > Real Party in Interest > General Overview

HN8 The Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against state officials when the state is the real, substantial party in interest. The general rule is that relief sought nominally against a state officer is in fact against the sovereign if the decree would operate against the latter. And, as when the state itself is named as the defendant, a suit against state officials that is in fact a suit against a state is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN9 The general rule is that a suit is against the sovereign if the judgment sought would expend itself on the public treasury or domain, or interfere with the public administration, or if the effect of the judgment would be to restrain the government from acting, or to compel it to act.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Governments > State & Territorial Governments > Employees & Officials
International Trade Law > General Overview

HN10 A state officer may be said to act ultra vires only when he acts without any authority whatever.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Governments > State & Territorial Governments > Employees & Officials

HN11 An ultra vires claim rests on the officer’s lack of delegated power. A claim of error in the exercise of that power is therefore not sufficient.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN12 A suit challenging the constitutionality of a state official’s action is not one against the State.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN13 When a plaintiff sues a state official alleging a violation of federal law, the federal court may award an injunction that governs the official’s future conduct, but not one that awards retroactive monetary relief.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN14 Where the exercise of authority by state officials is attacked, federal courts must be constantly mindful of the special delicacy of the adjustment to be preserved between federal equitable power and State administration of its own law.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN15 The Young and Edelman doctrines are inapplicable in a suit against state officials on the basis of state law.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Business & Corporate Law > Agency Relationships > General Overview
Business & Corporate Law > Agency Relationships > Duties & Liabilities > General Overview
Business & Corporate Law > … > Duties & Liabilities > Negligent Acts of Agents > General Overview
Torts > Vicarious Liability > Agency Relationships > General Overview

HN16 It has been said, in a very special sense, that, as a matter of agency law, a principal may never lawfully authorize the commission of a tort by his agent. But that statement, in its usual context, is only a way of saying that an agent’s liability for torts committed by him cannot be avoided by pleading the direction or authorization of his principal. The agent is himself liable whether or not he has been authorized or even directed to commit the tort. This, of course, does not mean that the principal is not liable nor that the tortious action may not be regarded as the action of the principal.  Shepardize– Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN17 A federal suit against state officials on the basis of state law contravenes theEleventh Amendment when the relief sought and ordered has an impact directly on the state itself.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Jurisdiction > Subject Matter Jurisdiction > General Overview
Civil Procedure > … > Subject Matter Jurisdiction > Supplemental Jurisdiction > General Overview
Civil Procedure > … > Subject Matter Jurisdiction > Supplemental Jurisdiction > Pendent Claims
Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Constitutional Law > The Judiciary > Congressional Limits
Constitutional Law > The Judiciary > Jurisdiction > Diversity Jurisdiction
Constitutional Law > … > Subject Matter Jurisdiction > Supplemental Jurisdiction > Pendent Jurisdiction

HN18 Pendent jurisdiction is a judge-made doctrine of expediency and efficiency derived from the general U.S. Const. art. III language conferring power to hear all cases arising under federal law or between diverse parties. The Eleventh Amendment should not be construed to apply with less force to this implied form of jurisdiction than it does to the explicitly granted power to hear federal claims.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Jurisdiction > Jurisdictional Sources > General Overview
Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview

HN19 Neither pendent jurisdiction nor any other basis of jurisdiction may override theEleventh Amendment. A federal court must examine each claim in a case to see if the court’s jurisdiction over that claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Governments > Federal Government > Claims By & Against

HN20 Considerations of policy cannot override the constitutional limitation on the authority of the federal judiciary to adjudicate suits against a state.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Civil Procedure > … > Federal & State Interrelationships > State Sovereign Immunity > General Overview
Governments > Local Governments > Claims By & Against
Governments > Local Governments > Employees & Officials

HN21 A suit against officials of a county or other governmental entity is barred if the relief obtained runs against the state.  Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote

Lawyers’ Edition DisplayHide

Decision

Eleventh Amendment held to bar federal-court jurisdiction of state-law injunctive suit against officials.

Summary

In a class action by a resident of a Pennsylvania state institution for the care of the mentally retarded against state and county officials, alleging that conditions at the institution violated the class members’ federal constitutional and statutory rights and a Pennsylvania statute, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted injunctive relief on the ground that the conditions violated the residents’ federal constitutional rights, the federal Rehabilitation Act, and a state statute (446 F Supp 1295). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed most of the District Court’s judgment, grounding its decision on 42 USCS 6010 (612 F2d 84). After the Supreme Court reversed on the ground that 42 USCS 6010 does not create any substantive rights (451 US 1, 67 L Ed 2d 694, 101 S Ct 1531), the Court of Appeals affirmed its prior judgment in its entirety, relying solely on the state statute (673 F2d 647).

On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded for consideration of the extent, if any, that the judgment could be sustained on federal constitutional or statutory grounds. In an opinion by Powell, J., expressing the views of Burger, Ch. J., and White, Rehnquist, and O’Connor, JJ., it was held that a federal court lacks jurisdiction of a suit for injunctive relief against state officials on the basis of state law, because such an action contravenes the Eleventh Amendment.

Brennan, J., dissenting, declared that the Eleventh Amendment bars federal court suits against states only by citizens of other states.

Stevens, J., joined by Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun, JJ., dissented on the ground that a state’s sovereign immunity does not prevent a federal court from enjoining conduct that the state itself has prohibited.

Headnotes

POSSESSIONS §93  > suit — immunity —
LEdHN[1A] [1A]LEdHN[1B] [1B]LEdHN[1C] [1C]

A federal court lacks jurisdiction of a suit for injunctive relief against state officials on the basis of state law, because such an action contravenes the Eleventh Amendment. (BrennanStevens, Marshall, and Blackmun, JJ., dissented from this holding.)

POSSESSIONS §88  > immunity — federal jurisdiction —
LEdHN[2] [2]

By virtue of the Eleventh Amendment, the principle of sovereign immunity is a constitutional limitation on the federal judicial power established in Article III of the Constitution.

POSSESSIONS §91  > immunity — assertion —
LEdHN[3] [3]

The Eleventh Amendment’s embodiment of the principle of sovereign immunity as a constitutional limitation deprives federal courts of any jurisdiction to entertain claims by private parties against states, and thus may be raised at any point in a proceeding.

POSSESSIONS §89  > consent to be sued —
LEdHN[4] [4]

A sovereign’s immunity from suit may be waived, and a state may consent to suit against it in federal court, but the state’s consent must be unequivocally expressed.

POSSESSIONS §88  > immunity — waiver —
LEdHN[5] [5]

Although Congress has power with respect to the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity, an unequivocal expression of congressional intent is required to overturn the constitutionally guaranteed immunityof the several states.

POSSESSIONS §89  > consent to suit — court —
LEdHN[6] [6]

A state’s constitutional interest in immunity encompasses not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued.

POSSESSIONS §89  > consent to suit — federal court —
LEdHN[7A] [7A]LEdHN[7B] [7B]

A state’s waiver of sovereign immunity in its own courts is not a waiver of the Eleventh Amendment immunity in the federal courts.

POSSESSIONS §87  > immunity from suit —
LEdHN[8] [8]

An unconsenting state is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another state. (Brennan J., dissented from this holding.)

POSSESSIONS §88  > immunity — department — relief —
LEdHN[9] [9]

In the absence of consent, a suit in which a state or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment, regardless of the nature of the relief sought.

POSSESSIONS §93  > suit against officer —
LEdHN[10] [10]

The Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against state officials when the state is the real, substantial party in interest.

POSSESSIONS §93  >  STATES §107.5  > suit against officer —
LEdHN[11] [11]

Relief sought nominally against an officer is in fact against the sovereign if the decree would operate against the latter.

POSSESSIONS §93  >  STATES §99  > suit against sovereign — test —
LEdHN[12A] [12A]LEdHN[12B] [12B]

A suit is against the sovereign if the judgment sought would expend itself on the public treasury or domain, or interfere with the public administration, or if the effect of the judgment would be to restrain the government from acting, or compel it to act.

POSSESSIONS §93  > suit against officer — ultra vires acts —
LEdHN[13A] [13A]LEdHN[13B] [13B]

A state officer may be said to act ultra vires, for the purpose of determining whether a suit against the officer is against the state, only when he acts without any authority whatever; an ultra vires claim thus rests on the officer’s lack of delegated power, a claim of error in the exercise of that power being insufficient.

POSSESSIONS §88 > immunity — relief sought —
LEdHN[14] [14]

As when the state itself is named as the defendant, a suit against state officials that is in fact a suit against a state is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief.

POSSESSIONS §93  > immunity — suit against official —
LEdHN[15] [15]

A suit challenging the constitutionality of a state official’s action is not one against the state within the meaning of the Eleventh Amendment immunity of a state from suit.

POSSESSIONS §89  > immunity from suit — waiver —
LEdHN[16A] [16A]LEdHN[16B] [16B]

A state does not waive its immunity from suit in federal court where at the time suit is filed, suits against the state are permitted only when expressly authorized by the legislature and there is no statutory provision expressly waiving the state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity, and at the time of decision a state statute expressly states that nothing in its subchapter governing sovereign immunity shall be construed to waive the state’s immunity from suit in federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment.

POSSESSIONS §93  > immunity — United States plaintiff —
LEdHN[17A] [17A]LEdHN[17B] [17B]

The presence of the United States as a plaintiff in a suit against a state official does not remove the Eleventh Amendment’s applicability to private plaintiffs’ claims against the state official.

POSSESSIONS §87  > immunity — United States plaintiff —
LEdHN[18A] [18A]LEdHN[18B] [18B]

The Eleventh Amendment does not bar the United States from suing a state in federal court.

POSSESSIONS §87  > immunity — United States presence —
LEdHN[19A] [19A]LEdHN[19B] [19B]

The United States’ presence in a suit against a state for any purpose does not eliminate the state’s immunity for all purposes.

POSSESSIONS §87  > immunity — relief —
LEdHN[20A] [20A]LEdHN[20B] [20B]

That a federal court can award injunctive relief to the United States on federal constitutional claims against a state does not mean that the court can order the state to pay damages to other plaintiffs.

PARTIES §26  > representative suits — standing — United States —
LEdHN[21A] [21A]LEdHN[21B] [21B]

The United States does not have standing to assert the state-law claim of third parties in a suit against a state.

POSSESSIONS §92  > suits against officers — injunction —
LEdHN[22A] [22A]LEdHN[22B] [22B]

A finding that state officials have acted in good faith and therefore are immune from damages does not affect whether an injunction might be issued against them by a court possessed of jurisdiction.

STATES §14  > jurisdiction — constitutional amendments —
LEdHN[23A] [23A]LEdHN[23B] [23B]

Article III of the Constitution confers no jurisdiction on the Supreme Court to strip an explicit constitutional amendment of its substantive meaning.

STATES §3  > state law — enforcement —
LEdHN[24A] [24A]LEdHN[24B] [24B]

Although the Supreme Court is vested with the constitutional duty to vindicate the supreme authority of the United States, there is no corresponding mandate to enforce state law.

POSSESSIONS §93  > state officials — immunity —
LEdHN[25] [25]

A federal suit against state officials on the basis of state law contravenes the Eleventh Amendment when the relief sought and ordered has an impact directly on the state itself.

COURTS §240  > federal courts — pendent jurisdiction —
LEdHN[26] [26]

When a federal court obtains jurisdiction over a federal claim, it may adjudicate other related claims over which the court otherwise would not have jurisdiction.

COURTS §240  > pendent claims — decision —
LEdHN[27] [27]

A federal court may resolve a case solely on the basis of a pendent state-law claim, and in fact usually should do so in order to avoid federal constitutional questions.

COURTS §774  > precedent — jurisdiction — sub silentio —
LEdHN[28] [28]

When questions of jurisdiction have been passed on in prior decisions sub silentio, the Supreme Court is not bound when a subsequent case finally brings the jurisdictional issue before it.

POSSESSIONS §88  > Eleventh Amendment — jurisdiction —
LEdHN[29] [29]

The Eleventh Amendment is an explicit limitation on the judicial power of the United States, and deprives a federal court of power to decide certain claims against states that otherwise are within the scope of Article III’s grant of jurisdiction.

RIGHTS §34  >  POSSESSIONS §93  > jurisdiction —
LEdHN[30] [30]

If a lawsuit against state officials under 42 USCS 1983 alleges a constitutional claim, the federal court is barred from awarding damages against the state treasury even though the claim arises under the Constitution.

RIGHTS §33  >  POSSESSIONS §88  > jurisdiction —
LEdHN[31] [31]

If an action under 42 USCS 1983 alleging a constitutional claim is brought directly against a state, the Eleventh Amendment bars a federal court from granting any relief on that claim.

POSSESSIONS §88  > Eleventh Amendment — jurisdiction —
LEdHN[32] [32]

The Eleventh Amendment is a specific constitutional bar against hearing even federal claims that otherwise are within the jurisdiction of federal courts.

POSSESSIONS §88  > pendent claims —
LEdHN[33] [33]

The Eleventh Amendment’s bar of suits against states applies to state-law pendent claims as well as federal claims.

POSSESSIONS §88  > Eleventh Amendment — jurisdiction —
LEdHN[34] [34]

Neither pendent jurisdiction nor any other basis of jurisdiction may override the Eleventh Amendment.

POSSESSIONS §92  > state officers — jurisdiction —
LEdHN[35] [35]

A suit against state officials for retroactive monetary relief, whether based on federal or state law, must be brought in state court.

RIGHTS §33  > tax challenge —
LEdHN[36] [36]

Challenges to the validity of state tax systems under 42 USCS 1983 must be brought in state court.

POSSESSIONS §93  > county officials —
LEdHN[37] [37]

The Eleventh Amendment bars a claim against county officials where the judgment cannot be sustained on the basis of the state-law obligations of the county officials and any relief granted against the county officials on the basis of the state statute would be partial and incomplete at best.

Syllabus

Respondent Halderman, a resident of petitioner Pennhurst State School and Hospital, a Pennsylvania institution for the care of the mentally retarded, brought a class action in Federal District Court against Pennhurst, certain of its officials, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and various state and county officials (also petitioners). It was alleged that conditions at Pennhurst violated various federal constitutional and statutory rights of the class members as well as their rights under the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 (MH/MR Act). Ultimately, the District Court awarded injunctive relief based in part on the MH/MR Act, which was held to provide a right to adequate habilitation. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the MH/MR Act required the State to adopt the “least restrictive environment” approach for the care of the mentally retarded, and rejecting petitioners’ argument that the Eleventh Amendmentbarred a federal court from considering this pendent state-law claim. The court reasoned that since that Amendment did not bar a federal court from granting prospective injunctive relief against state officials on the basis of federal claims, citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, the same result obtained with respect to a pendent state-law claim.

Held: The Eleventh Amendment prohibited the District Court from ordering state officials to conform their conduct to state law. Pp. 97-124.

(a) The principle of sovereign immunity is a constitutional limitation on the federal judicial power established in Art. III of the Constitution. The Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against state officials when the State is the real, substantial party in interest, regardless of whether the suit seeks damages or injunctive relief. The Court in Ex parte Young, supra, recognized an important exception to this general rule: a suit challenging the federal constitutionality of a state official’s action is not one against the State. Pp. 97-103.

(b) In Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, this Court recognized that the need to promote the supremacy of federal law that is the basis of Young must be accommodated to the constitutional immunity of the States. Thus, the Court declined to extend the Youngdoctrine to encompass retroactive relief, for to do so would effectively eliminate the States’ constitutional immunity. Edelman‘s distinction between prospective and retroactive relief fulfilled Young‘s underlying purpose of vindicating the supreme authority of federal law while at the same time preserving to an important degree the States’ constitutionalimmunity. But this need to reconcile competing interests is wholly absent when a plaintiff alleges that a state official has violated state law. In such a case the entire basis for the doctrine of Young and Edelman disappears. A federal court’s grant of relief against state officials on the basis of state law, whether prospective or retroactive, does not vindicate the supreme authority of federal law. When a federal court instructs state officials on how to conform their conduct to state law, this conflicts directly with the principles of federalism that underlie the Eleventh Amendment. Pp. 103-106.

(c) The dissenters’ view is that an allegation that official conduct is contrary to a state statute would suffice to override the State’s protection from injunctive relief under theEleventh Amendment because such conduct is ultra vires the official’s authority. This view rests on fiction, is wrong on the law, and would emasculate the Eleventh Amendment. At least insofar as injunctive relief is sought, an error of law by state officers acting in their official capacity will not suffice to override the sovereign immunity of the State where the relief effectively is against it. Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682. Under the dissenters’ view, the ultra vires doctrine, a narrow and questionable exception, would swallow the general rule that a suit is against the State if the relief will run against it. Pp. 106-117.

(d) The principle that a claim that state officials violated state law in carrying out their official responsibilities is a claim against the State that is protected by the Eleventh Amendment applies as well to state-law claims brought into federal court under pendent jurisdiction. Pp. 117-121.

(e) While it may be that applying the Eleventh Amendment to pendent state-law claims results in federal claims being brought in state court or in bifurcation of claims, such considerations of policy cannot override the constitutional limitation on the authority of the federal judiciary to adjudicate suits against a State. Pp. 121-123.

(f) The judgment below cannot be sustained on the basis of the state-law obligation of petitioner county officials, since any relief granted against these officials on the basis of the MH/MR Act would be partial and incomplete at best. Such an ineffective enforcement of state law would not appear to serve the purposes of efficiency, convenience, and fairness that must inform the exercise of pendent jurisdiction. Pp. 123-124.

Counsel: H. Bartow Farr III and Allen C. Warshaw reargued the cause for petitioners. With them on the briefs were Thomas M. KittredgeJoel I. KleinLeRoy S. Zimmerman, Robert B. Hoffman, Debra K. Wallet, Alan J. Davis, and Mark A. Aronchick.

David Ferleger reargued the cause and filed a brief for respondents Halderman et al.Thomas K. Gilhool reargued the cause for respondents Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens et al. With him on the brief were Frank J. Laski and Michael Churchill. Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Reynolds, Deputy Assistant Attorneys General Cooper and Wilkinson, Brian K. Landsberg, and Frank Allen filed a brief for the United States.*

Judges: POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J., and WHITE,REHNQUIST, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 125. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 126.

Opinion by: POWELL

Opinion

 [91]  JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A] [1A]This case presents the question whether a federal court may award injunctive relief against state officials on the basis of state law.

 [92]  I

This litigation, here for the second time, concerns the conditions of care at petitioner Pennhurst State School and Hospital, a Pennsylvania institution for the care of the mentally retarded. See Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1 (1981). Although the litigation’s history is set forth in detail in our prior opinion, see id., at 5-10, it is necessary for purposes of this decision to review that history.

This suit originally was brought in 1974 by respondent Terri Lee Halderman, a resident of Pennhurst, in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, plaintiffs included a class consisting of all persons who were or might become residents of Pennhurst; the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC); and the United States. Defendants were Pennhurst and various Pennhurst officials; the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and several of its officials; and various county commissioners, county mental retardation administrators, and other officials of five Pennsylvania counties surrounding Pennhurst. Respondents’ amended complaint charged that conditions at Pennhurst violated the class members’ rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, 29 U. S. C. § 794; the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 89 Stat. 496, 42 U. S. C. § 6001et seq.; and the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966 (MH/MR Act), Pa. Stat. Ann., Tit. 50, §§ 4101-4704 (Purdon 1969 and Supp. 1983-1984). Both damages and injunctive relief were sought.

In 1977, following a lengthy trial, the District Court rendered its decision. Halderman v.Pennhurst State School and Hospital, 446 F.Supp. 1295. As noted in our prior opinion, the court’s findings were undisputed: “Conditions at Pennhurst are not only dangerous, with the residents often physically abused or drugged by staff members, but also inadequate [93]  for the ‘habilitation’ of the retarded. Indeed, the court found that the physicial, intellectual, and emotional skills of some residents have deteriorated at Pennhurst.” 451 U.S., at 7 (footnote omitted). The District Court held that these conditions violated each resident’s right to “minimally adequate habilitation” under the Due Process Clause and the MH/MR Act, see 446 F.Supp., at 1314-1318, 1322-1323; “freedom from harm” under theEighth and Fourteenth Amendments, see id., at 1320-1321; and “nondiscriminatory habilitation” under the Equal Protection Clause and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, see id., at 1321-1324. Furthermore, the court found that “due process demands that if a state undertakes the habilitation of a retarded person, it must do so in the least restrictive setting consistent with that individual’s habilitative needs.” Id., at 1319 (emphasis added).After concluding that the large size of Pennhurst prevented it from providing the necessary habilitation in the least restrictive environment, the court ordered that “immediate steps be taken to remove the retarded residents from Pennhurst.” Id., at 1325. Petitioners were ordered “to provide suitable community living arrangements” for the class members, id., at 1326, and the court appointed a Special Master “with the power and duty to plan, organize, direct, supervise and monitor the implementation of this and any further Orders of the Court.” Ibid1

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed most of the District Court’s judgment.Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital, 612 F.2d 84 (1979) (en banc). It agreed that respondents had a right to habilitation in the least restrictive environment, but it grounded this right solely on the “bill of rights” provision in the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U. S. C. § 6010. See 612 F.2d, at 95-100, 104-107. The court did  [94]  not consider the constitutional issues or § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and while it affirmed the District Court’s holding that the MH/MR Act provides a right to adequate habilitation, see id., at 100-103, the court did not decide whether that state right encompassed a right to treatment in the least restrictive setting.

On the question of remedy, the Court of Appeals affirmed except as to the District Court’s order that Pennhurst be closed. The court observed that some patients would be unable to adjust to life outside an institution, and it determined that none of the legal provisions relied on by respondents precluded institutionalization. Id., at 114-115. It therefore remanded for “individual determinations by the [District Court], or by the Special Master, as to the appropriateness of an improved Pennhurst for each such patient,” guided by “a presumption in favor of placing individuals in [community living arrangements].” Ibid2

On remand the District Court established detailed procedures for determining the proper residential placement for each patient. A team consisting of the patient, his parents or guardian, and his case manager must establish an individual habilitation plan providing for habilitation of the patient in a designated community living arrangement. The plan is subject to review by the Special Master. A second master, called the Hearing Master, is available to conduct hearings, upon request by the resident, his parents, or his advocate, on the question whether the services of Pennhurst would be more beneficial to the resident than the community living arrangement provided in the resident’s plan. The Hearing Master then determines where the patient should reside,  [95]  subject to possible review by the District Court. See App. 123a-134a (Order of Apr. 24, 1980). 3

This Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, finding that 42 U. S. C. § 6010did not create any substantive rights. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1 (1981). We remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to determine if the remedial order could be supported on the basis of state law, the Constitution, or § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. See id., at 314 We also remanded for consideration of whether any relief was available under other provisions of the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. See id., at 27-30 (discussing 42 U. S. C. §§ 6011(a)6063(b)(5) (1976 ed., Supp. V)).

On remand the Court of Appeals affirmed its prior judgment in its entirety. 673 F.2d 647 (1982) (en banc). It determined that in a recent decision the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had “spoken definitively” in holding that the MH/MR Act required the State to adopt the “least restrictive environment” approach for the care of the mentally retarded.Id., at 651 (citing In re Schmidt, 494 Pa. 86, 429 A. 2d 631 (1981)). The Court of Appeals concluded that this state statute fully supported its prior judgment, and therefore did not [96]  reach the remaining issues of federal law. It also rejected petitioners’ argument that the Eleventh Amendment barred a federal court from considering this pendent state-law claim. The court noted that the Amendment did not bar a federal court from granting prospective injunctive relief against state officials on the basis of federal claims, see 673 F.2d, at 656 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)), and concluded that the same result obtained with respect to a pendent state-law claim. It reasoned that because Silerv. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S. 175 (1909), an important case in the development of the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction, also involved state officials, “there cannot be . . . anEleventh Amendment exception to that rule.” 673 F.2d, at 658. 5 Finally, the court rejected petitioners’ argument that it should have abstained from deciding the state-law claim under principles of comity, see id., at 659-660, and refused to consider petitioners’ objections to the District Court’s use of a Special Master, see id., at 651, and n. 10. Three judges dissented in part, arguing that under principles of federalism and comity the establishment of a Special Master to supervise compliance was an abuse of discretion. Seeid., at 662 (Seitz, C. J., joined by Hunter, J., dissenting in part); ibid. (Garth, J., concurring in part and dissenting as to relief). See also id., at 661 (Aldisert, J., concurring) (seriously questioning the propriety of the order appointing the Special  [97]  Master, but concluding that a retroactive reversal of that order would be meaningless). 6

We granted certiorari, 457 U.S. 1131 (1982), and now reverse and remand.

II

Petitioners raise three challenges to the judgment of the Court of Appeals: (i) the Eleventh Amendment prohibited the District Court from ordering state officials to conform their conduct to state law; (ii) the doctrine of comity prohibited the District Court from issuing its injunctive relief; and (iii) the District Court abused its discretion in appointing two Masters to supervise the decisions of state officials in implementing state law. We need not reach the latter two issues, for we find the Eleventh Amendment challenge dispositive.

A

Article III, § 2, HN1 of the Constitution provides that the federal judicial power extends,inter alia, to controversies “between a State and Citizens of another State.” Relying on this language, this Court in 1793 assumed original jurisdiction over a suit brought by a citizen of South Carolina against the State of Georgia. Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419 (1793). The decision “created such a shock of surprise that the Eleventh Amendment was at once proposed and adopted.” Monaco v. Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313, 325 (1934). The Amendment provides:

HN2 “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”

 [98]  LEdHN[2] [2] LEdHN[3] [3]The Amendment’s language overruled the particular result in Chisholm, but this Court has recognized that its greater significance lies in its affirmation that the fundamental principle of sovereign immunity limits the grant of judicial authority in Art. III. Thus, in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), the Court held that, despite the limited terms of the Eleventh Amendment, a federal court could not entertain a suit brought by a citizen against his own State. After reviewing the constitutional debates concerning the scope of Art. III, the Court determined that federal jurisdiction over suits against unconsenting States “was not contemplated by the Constitution when establishing the judicial power of the United States.” Id., at 15. See Monaco v. Mississippi, supra, at 322-3237 In short, the principle of sovereign immunity is a constitutional limitation on the federal judicial power established in Art. III:

HN3 “That a State may not be sued without its consent is a fundamental rule of jurisprudence having so important a bearing upon the construction of the Constitution of the United States that it has become established by repeated decisions of this court thatthe entire judicial power granted by the Constitution does not embrace authority to entertain a suit brought by private parties against a State without consent given: not one brought by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of a foreign State, because of theEleventh Amendment; and not even one brought by its own citizens, because of the fundamental rule of which the Amendment is but  [99]  an exemplification.” Ex parte State of New York, 256 U.S. 490, 497 (1921) (emphasis added). 8

LEdHN[4] [4] LEdHN[5] [5] LEdHN[6] [6] LEdHN[7A] [7A]A HN4 sovereign’simmunity may be waived, and the Court consistently has held that a State may consent to suit against it in federal court. See, e. g., Clark v. Barnard, 108 U.S. 436, 447 (1883). We have insisted, however, that the State’s consent be unequivocally expressed. See, e. g.,Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 673 (1974). Similarly, although Congress has power with respect to the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976), we have required an unequivocal expression of congressional intent to “overturn the constitutionally guaranteed immunity of the several States.” Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979)(holding that 42 U. S. C. § 1983 does not override States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity).Our reluctance to infer that a State’s immunity from suit in the federal courts has been negated stems from recognition of the vital role of the doctrine of sovereign immunity in our federal system. HN5 A State’s constitutional interest in immunity encompasses not merely whether it may be sued, but where it may be sued. 9 As JUSTICE MARSHALL well has noted, “[because]  [100]  of the problems of federalism inherent in making onesovereign appear against its will in the courts of the other, a restriction upon the exercise of the federal judicial power has long been considered to be appropriate in a case such as this.” Employees v. Missouri Dept. of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279, 294 (1973)(concurring in result). 10 Accordingly, in deciding this case we must be guided by “[the] principles of federalism that inform Eleventh Amendment doctrine.” Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 691 (1978).

B

LEdHN[8] [8] LEdHN[9] [9]This Court’s decisions thus establish that “an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another state.” Employees, supra, at 280. There may be a question, however, whether a particular suit in fact is a suit against a State. It is clear, of course, that HN7 in the absence of consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment. See, e. g., Florida Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services v. Florida Nursing Home Assn., 450 U.S. 147 (1981) (per curiam); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978) (per curiam). This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought. See, e. g., Missouri v. Fiske, 290 U.S. 18, 27 (1933) (“Expressly applying  [101]  to suits in equity as well as at law, the Amendment necessarily embraces demands for the enforcement of equitable rights and the prosecution of equitable remedies when these are asserted and prosecuted by an individual against a State”).

LEdHN[10] [10] LEdHN[11] [11] LEdHN[12A] [12A] LEdHN[13A] [13A]LEdHN[14] [14]When the suit is brought only against state officials, a question arises as to whether that suit is a suit against the State itself. Although prior decisions of this Court have not been entirely consistent on this issue, certain principles are well established. HN8 The Eleventh Amendment bars a suit against state officials when “the state is the real, substantial party in interest.” Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury of Indiana, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945). See, e. g., In re Ayers, 123 U.S. 443, 487-492 (1887);Louisiana v. Jumel, 107 U.S. 711, 720-723, 727-728 (1883). Thus, “[the] general rule is that relief sought nominally against an officer is in fact against the sovereign if the decree would operate against the latter.” Hawaii v. Gordon, 373 U.S. 57, 58 (1963) (per curiam)11And, as when the State itself is named as the  [102]  defendant, a suit against state officials that is in fact a suit against a State is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief. See Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 91 (1982).

LEdHN[15] [15]The Court has recognized an important exception to this general rule:HN12 a suit challenging the constitutionality of a state official’s action is not one against the State. This was the holding in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), in which a federal court enjoined the Attorney General of the State of Minnesota from bringing suit to enforce a state statute that allegedly violated the Fourteenth Amendment. This Court held that theEleventh Amendment did not prohibit issuance of this injunction. The theory of the case was that an unconstitutional enactment is “void” and therefore does not “impart to [the officer] any immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States.” Id., at 160. Since the State could not authorize the action, the officer was “stripped of his official or representative character and [was] subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct.” Ibid.

While the rule permitting suits alleging conduct contrary to “the supreme authority of the United States” has survived, the theory of Young has not been provided an expansive interpretation. Thus, in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974), the Court emphasized that the Eleventh Amendment bars some forms of injunctive relief against state officials for violation of federal law. Id., at 666-667. In particular, Edelman held that HN13 when a plaintiff sues a state official alleging a violation of federal law, the federal court  [103] may award an injunction that governs the official’s future conduct, but not one that awards retroactive monetary relief. Under the theory of Young, such a suit would not be one against the State since the federal-law allegation would strip the state officer of his official authority. Nevertheless, retroactive relief was barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

III

LEdHN[16A] [16A] LEdHN[17A] [17A] LEdHN[18A] [18A] LEdHN[19A] [19A]LEdHN[20A] [20A] LEdHN[21A] [21A]With these principles in mind, we now turn to the question whether the claim that petitioners violated state law in carrying out their official duties at Pennhurst is one against the State and therefore barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Respondents advance two principal arguments in support of the judgment below. 12 First, they contend that under the doctrine of Edelman v. Jordan, supra, the suit is not against  [104]  the State because the courts below ordered only prospective injunctive relief. Second, they assert that the state-law claim properly was decided under the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction. Respondents rely on decisions of this Court awarding relief against state officials on the basis of a pendent state-law claim. See, e. g., Siler v.Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S., at 193.

A

We first address the contention that respondents’ state-law claim is not barred by theEleventh Amendment because it seeks only prospective relief as defined in Edelman v.Jordan, supra. The Court of Appeals held that if the judgment below rested on federal law, it could be entered against petitioner state officials under the doctrine established inEdelman and Young even though the prospective financial burden was substantial and ongoing. 13 See 673 F.2d, at 656. The court assumed, and respondents assert, that this reasoning applies as well when the official acts in violation of state law. This argument misconstrues the basis of the doctrine established in Young and Edelman.

As discussed above, the injunction in Young was justified, notwithstanding the obvious impact on the State itself, on the view that sovereign immunity does not apply because an official who acts unconstitutionally is “stripped of his official or representative character,” Young, 209 U.S., at 160. This  [105]  rationale, of course, created the “well-recognized irony” that an official’s unconstitutional conduct constitutes state action under the Fourteenth Amendment but not the Eleventh AmendmentFlorida Dept. of State v.Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670, 685 (1982) (opinion of STEVENS, J.). Nonetheless, theYoung doctrine has been accepted as necessary to permit the federal courts to vindicate federal rights and hold state officials responsible to “the supreme authority of the United States.” Young, supra, at 160. As JUSTICE BRENNAN has observed, “Ex parte Young was the culmination of efforts by this Court to harmonize the principles of the Eleventh Amendmentwith the effective supremacy of rights and powers secured elsewhere in the Constitution.”Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 106 (1971) (concurring in part and dissenting in part). Our decisions repeatedly have emphasized that the Young doctrine rests on the need to promote the vindication of federal rights. See, e. g., Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S., at 337;Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 237 (1974)Georgia Railroad & Banking Co. v. Redwine, 342 U.S. 299, 304 (1952).

The Court also has recognized, however, that the need to promote the supremacy of federal law must be accommodated to the constitutional immunity of the States. This is the significance of Edelman v. Jordan, supra. We recognized that the prospective relief authorized by Young “has permitted the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution to serve as a sword, rather than merely a shield, for those whom they were designed to protect.”415 U.S., at 664. But we declined to extend the fiction of Young to encompass retroactive relief, for to do so would effectively eliminate the constitutional immunity of the States. Accordingly, we concluded that although the difference between permissible and impermissible relief “will not in many instances be that between day and night,” 415 U.S., at 667, an award of retroactive relief necessarily “‘[falls] afoul of the Eleventh Amendment [106]  if that basic constitutional provision is to be conceived of as having any present force.'” Id., at 665 (quoting Rothstein v. Wyman, 467 F.2d 226, 237 (CA2 1972) (McGowan, J., sitting by designation), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 921 (1973)). In sum, Edelman‘s distinction between prospective and retroactive relief fulfills the underlying purpose of Ex parte Youngwhile at the same time preserving to an important degree the constitutional immunity of the States.

LEdHN[1B] [1B]This need to reconcile competing interests is wholly absent, however, when a plaintiff alleges that a state official has violated state law. In such a case the entire basis for the doctrine of Young and Edelman disappears. A federal court’s grant of relief against state officials on the basis of state law, whether prospective or retroactive, does not vindicate the supreme authority of federal law. On the contrary, it is difficult to think of a greater intrusion on state sovereignty than when a federal court instructs state officials on how to conform their conduct to state law. Such a result conflicts directly with the principles of federalism that underlie the Eleventh Amendment. We conclude that HN15Young and Edelman are inapplicable in a suit against state officials on the basis of state law.

B

The contrary view of JUSTICE STEVENS‘ dissent rests on fiction, is wrong on the law, and, most important, would emasculate the Eleventh Amendment14 Under his view, an allegation that official conduct is contrary to a state statute would suffice to override the State’s protection under that Amendment. The theory is that such conduct is contrary to the official’s “instructions,” and thus ultra vires his authority.  [107]  Accordingly, official action based on a reasonable interpretation of any statute might, if the interpretation turned out to be erroneous, 15 provide the basis for injunctive relief against the actors in their official capacities. In this case, where officials of a major state department, clearly acting within the scope of their authority, were found not to have improved conditions in a state institution adequately under state law, the dissent’s result would be that the State itself has forfeited its constitutionally provided immunity.

LEdHN[22A] [22A] LEdHN[23A] [23A] LEdHN[24A] [24A] The theory is out of touch with reality. The dissent does not dispute that the general criterion for determining when a suit is in fact against the sovereign is the effect of the relief sought. See supra, at 101;post, at 146, n. 29. According to the dissent, the relief sought and ordered here — which in effect was that a major state institution be closed and smaller state institutions be created and expansively funded — did not operate against the State. This view would make the law a pretense. No other court or judge in the 10-year history of this litigation has advanced this theory. And the dissent’s underlying view that the named defendants here were acting beyond and contrary to their authority cannot be reconciled with reality — or with the record. The District Court in this case held that the individual defendants “acted in the utmost good faith . . . within the sphere of their official responsibilities,” and therefore were entitled to immunity from damages. 446 F.Supp., at 1324 (emphasis added). The named defendants had nothing to gain personally from their conduct; they were not found to have acted willfully or even negligently. See ibid. The court expressly noted that the individual defendants “apparently took every means available to them to reduce the incidents of abuse and injury, but were  [108]  constantly faced with staff shortages.” Ibid. It also found “that the individual defendants are dedicated professionals in the field of retardation who were given very little with which to accomplish the habilitation of the retarded at Pennhurst.” Ibid16 As a result, all the relief ordered by the courts below was institutional and official in character. To the extent  [109]  there was a violation of state law in this case, it is a case of the State itself not fulfilling its legislative promises. 17

The dissent bases its view on numerous cases from the turn of the century and earlier. These cases do not provide the support the dissent claims to find. Many are simply miscited. For example, with perhaps one exception, 18 none of its Eleventh Amendmentcases can be said to hold that injunctive relief could be ordered against state officials for failing to carry out their duties under state statutes. 19 And  [110]  the federal sovereignimmunity cases the dissent relies on for analogy, while far from uniform, make clear that suit may not be predicated on violations of state statutes that command purely discretionary duties. 20 Since it cannot be doubted  [111]  that the statutes at issue here gave petitioners broad discretion in operating Pennhurst, see n. 11, supra; see also 446 F.Supp., at 1324, the conduct alleged in this case would not be ultra vires even under the standards of the dissent’s cases. 21

Thus, while there is language in the early cases that advances the authority-stripping theory advocated by the dissent, this theory had never been pressed as far as JUSTICESTEVENS would do in this case. And when the expansive approach  [112]  of the dissent was advanced, this Court plainly and explicitly rejected it. In Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682 (1949), the Court was faced with the argument that an allegation that a Government official committed a tort sufficed to distinguish the official from the sovereign. Therefore, the argument went, a suit for an injunction to remedy the injury would not be against the sovereign. The Court rejected the argument, noting that it would make the doctrine of sovereign immunity superfluous. A plaintiff would need only to “claim an invasion of his legal rights” in order to override sovereign immunityId., at 693.In the Court’s view, the argument “[confused] the doctrine of sovereign immunity with the requirement that a plaintiff state a cause of action.” Id., at 692-693. The dissent’s theory suffers a like confusion. 22 Under the dissent’s view, a plaintiff would need only to claim a denial of rights protected or provided by statute in order to override sovereignimmunity. Except in rare cases it would make the constitutional doctrine of sovereignimmunity a nullity.

 [113]  The crucial element of the dissent’s theory was also the plaintiff’s central contention in Larson. It is that “[a] sovereign, like any other principal, cannot authorize its agent to violate the law,” so that when the agent does so he cannot be acting for thesovereign. Post, at 153; see also post, at 142, 148-149, 158; cf. Larson, supra, at 693-694(“It is argued . . . that the commission of a tort cannot be authorized by the sovereign. . . .It is on this contention that the respondent’s position fundamentally rests . . .”). It is a view of agency law that the Court in Larson explicitly rejected. 23 Larson thus made clear that, at least insofar as injunctive relief is sought, an error of law by state officers acting in their official capacities will not suffice to override the sovereign immunity of the State where the relief effectively is against it. 337 U.S., at 690, 69524 Any resulting disadvantage to the plaintiff was “[outweighed]” by “the necessity of permitting the Government  [114]  to carry out its functions unhampered by direct judicial intervention.”Id., at 704. If anything, this public need is even greater when questions of federalism are involved. See supra, at 99-10025

The dissent in Larson made many of the arguments advanced by JUSTICE STEVENS‘ dissent today, and asserted that many of the same cases were being overruled or ignored. [115]  See 337 U.S., at 723-728 (Frankfurter, J., dissenting). Those arguments were rejected, and the cases supporting them are moribund. Since Larson was decided in 1949,26 no opinion by any Member of this Court has cited the cases on which the dissent primarily relies for a proposition as broad as the language the dissent quotes. Many if not most of these cases have not been relied upon in an Eleventh Amendment context at all. Those that have been so cited have been relied upon only for propositions with which no one today quarrels. 27 The plain fact is that the dissent’s broad theory, if it ever was accepted to the full extent to which it is now pressed, has not been the law for at least a generation.

The reason is obvious. Under the dissent’s view of the ultra vires doctrine, the Eleventh Amendment would have force only in the rare case in which a plaintiff foolishly attempts to sue the State in its own name, or where he cannot produce some state statute that has been violated to his asserted injury. Thus, the ultra vires doctrine, a narrow and questionable exception, would swallow the general rule that a suit is against the State if the relief will run against it. That result gives the dissent no pause presumably because of its view that the Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity “‘undoubtedly [run] counter to modern democratic notions of the moral responsibility of the State.'” Post, at 164, n. 48 (quoting Great Northern Life Insurance Co. v. Read, 322 U.S. 47, 59 (1944)(Frankfurter, J., dissenting)). This argument has not been adopted by this Court. See Great Northern Life Insurance Co. v. Read, supra, at 51 (“Efforts to force, through suits against officials, performance of promises by a state collide directly with the necessity that asovereign must be free from judicial compulsion in the carrying out of its policies within the limits of the Constitution”); Larson, 337 U.S., at 704 (“The Government, as representative of the community as a whole, cannot be stopped in its tracks . . .”). Moreover, the argument substantially misses the point with respect to Eleventh Amendment sovereignimmunity. As JUSTICE MARSHALL has observed, the Eleventh Amendment’s restriction on the federal judicial power is based in large part on “the problems of federalism inherent in making  [117]  one sovereign appear against its will in the courts of the other.” Employeesv. Missouri Dept. of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S., at 294 (concurring in result). The dissent totally rejects the Eleventh Amendment’s basis in federalism.

C

LEdHN[25] [25]The reasoning of our recent decisions on sovereign immunity thus leads to the conclusion that HN17 a federal suit against state officials on the basis of state law contravenes the Eleventh Amendment when — as here — the relief sought and ordered has an impact directly on the State itself. In reaching a contrary conclusion, the Court of Appeals relied principally on a separate line of cases dealing with pendent jurisdiction. The crucial point for the Court of Appeals was that this Court has granted relief against state officials on the basis of a pendent state-law claim. See 673 F.2d, at 657-658.We therefore must consider the relationship between pendent jurisdiction and theEleventh Amendment.

LEdHN[26] [26] LEdHN[27] [27]This Court long has held generally that when a federal court obtains jurisdiction over a federal claim, it may adjudicate other related claims over which the court otherwise would not have jurisdiction. See, e. g., Mine Workers v.Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)Osborn v. Bank of United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 819-823 (1824). The Court also has held that a federal court may resolve a case solely on the basis of a pendent state-law claim, see Siler, 213 U.S., at 192-193, and that in fact the courtusually should do so in order to avoid federal constitutional questions, see id., at 193;Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 347 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring) (“[If] a case can be decided on either of two grounds, one involving a constitutional question, the other a question of statutory construction or general law, the Court will decide only the latter”).But pendent jurisdiction is a judge-made doctrine inferred from the general language of Art. III. The question presented is whether this doctrine  [118]  may be viewed as displacing the explicit limitation on federal jurisdiction contained in the Eleventh Amendment.

As the Court of Appeals noted, in Siler and subsequent cases concerning pendent jurisdiction, relief was granted against state officials on the basis of state-law claims that were pendent to federal constitutional claims. In none of these cases, however, did the Court so much as mention the Eleventh Amendment in connection with the state-law claim. Rather, the Court appears to have assumed that once jurisdiction was established over the federal-law claim, the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction would establish power to hear the state-law claims as well. The Court has not addressed whether that doctrine has a different scope when applied to suits against the State. This is illustrated by Greene v.Louisville & Interurban R. Co., 244 U.S. 499 (1917), in which the plaintiff railroads sued state officials, alleging that certain tax assessments were excessive under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court first rejected the officials’ argument that the Eleventh Amendmentbarred the federal constitutional claim. It held that Ex parte Young applied to all allegations challenging the constitutionality of official action, regardless of whether the state statute under which the officials purported to act was constitutional or unconstitutional. See 244 U.S., at 507. Having determined that the Eleventh Amendment did not deprive the federal court of jurisdiction over the Fourteenth Amendment question, the Court declared that the court’s jurisdiction extended “to the determination of all questions involved in the case, including questions of state law, irrespective of the disposition that may be made of the federal question, or whether it be found necessary to decide it at all.” Id., at 508. The case then was decided solely on state-law grounds. Accord, Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v.Greene, 244 U.S. 522 (1917)28

 [119]  LEdHN[28] [28] These cases thus did not directly confront the question before us. “[When] questions of jurisdiction have been passed on in prior decisions sub silentio, this Court has never considered itself bound when a subsequent case finally brings the jurisdictional issue before us.” Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 533, n. 5 (1974)29 We therefore view the question as an open one.

LEdHN[29] [29] LEdHN[30] [30] LEdHN[31] [31] LEdHN[32] [32]As noted, the implicit view of these cases seems to have been that once jurisdiction is established on the basis of a federal question, no further Eleventh Amendment inquiry is necessary with respect to other claims raised in the case. This is an erroneous view and contrary to the principles established in our Eleventh Amendment decisions. “The Eleventh Amendment is an explicit limitation of the judicial power of the United States.” Missouri v. Fiske, 290 U.S., at 25. It deprives a federal court of power to decide certain claims against States that otherwise would be within the  [120]  scope of Art. III’s grant of jurisdiction. For example, if a lawsuit against state officials under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 alleges a constitutional claim, the federal court is barred from awarding damages against the state treasury even though the claim arises under the Constitution. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979). Similarly, if a § 1983 action alleging a constitutional claim is brought directly against a State, theEleventh Amendment bars a federal court from granting any relief on that claim. SeeAlabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978) (per curiam). The Amendment thus is a specific constitutional bar against hearing even federal claims that otherwise would be within the jurisdiction of the federal courts. 30

LEdHN[33] [33]This constitutional bar applies to pendent claims as well. As noted above, HN18 pendent jurisdiction is a judge-made doctrine of expediency and efficiencyderived from the general Art. III language conferring power to hear all “cases” arising under federal law or between diverse parties. See Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S., at 725.See also Hagans v. Lavine, supra, at 545 (terming pendent jurisdiction “a doctrine of discretion”). The Eleventh Amendment should not be construed to apply with less force to this implied form of jurisdiction than it does to the explicitly granted power to hear federal claims. The history of the adoption and development of the Amendment, see supra, at 97-100, confirms that it is an independent limitation on all exercises of Art. III power: “the entire judicial power granted by the Constitution does not embrace authority to entertain a suit brought by private parties against a State without consent given,” Ex parte State of New York, 256 U.S., at 497. If we were to hold otherwise, a federal court could award damages against a State on the basis of a pendent claim. Our decision in  [121]  Edelmanv. Jordan makes clear that pendent jurisdiction does not permit such an evasion of theimmunity guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment. We there held that “the District Court was correct in exercising pendent jurisdiction over [plaintiffs’] statutory claim,” 415 U.S., at 653, n. 1, but then concluded that the Eleventh Amendment barred an award of retroactive relief on the basis of that pendent claim. Id., at 678.

LEdHN[34] [34]In sum, contrary to the view implicit in decisions such as Greene v.Louisville & Interurban R. Co., 244 U.S. 499 (1917)HN19 neither pendent jurisdiction nor any other basis of jurisdiction may override the Eleventh Amendment31 A federal court must examine each claim in a case to see if the court’s jurisdiction over that claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. We concluded above that a claim that state officials violated state law in carrying out their official responsibilities is a claim against the State that is protected by the Eleventh Amendment. See supra, at 106. We now hold that this principle applies as well to state-law claims brought into federal court under pendent jurisdiction.

D

Respondents urge that application of the Eleventh Amendment to pendent state-law claims will have a disruptive effect on litigation against state officials. They argue that the “considerations of judicial economy, convenience, and fairness to litigants” that underlie pendent jurisdiction, see Gibbs, supra, at 726, counsel against a result that may cause litigants to split causes of action between state and federal courts. They also contend that the policy of avoiding unnecessary constitutional decisions will be contravened if plaintiffs choose to forgo their state-law claims and sue only in federal court or, alternatively, that the policy of Ex parte Young  [122]  will be hindered if plaintiffs choose to forgo their right to a federal forum and bring all of their claims in state court.

LEdHN[35] [35] LEdHN[36] [36]It may be that applying the Eleventh Amendment to pendent claims results in federal claims being brought in state court, or in bifurcation of claims. That is not uncommon in this area. Under Edelman v. Jordan, supra, a suit against state officials for retroactive monetary relief, whether based on federal or state law, must be brought in state court. Challenges to the validity of state tax systems under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 also must be brought in state court. Fair Assessment in Real Estate Assn., Inc. v.McNary, 454 U.S. 100 (1981). Under the abstention doctrine, unclear issues of state law commonly are split off and referred to the state courts. 32

 [123]  In any case, the answer to respondents’ assertions is that such HN20considerations of policy cannot override the constitutional limitation on the authority of the federal judiciary to adjudicate suits against a State. See Missouri v. Fiske, 290 U.S., at 25-26 (“Considerations of convenience open no avenue of escape from the [Amendment’s] restriction”). 33 That a litigant’s choice of forum is reduced “has long been understood to be a part of the tension inherent in our system of federalism.” Employees v. Missouri Dept. of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S., at 298 (MARSHALL, J., concurring in result).

IV

LEdHN[37] [37]Respondents contend that, regardless of the applicability of theEleventh Amendment to their state claims against petitioner state officials, the judgment may still be upheld against petitioner county officials. We are not persuaded. Even assuming that these officials are not immune from suit challenging their actions under the MH/MR Act, 34 it is clear  [124]  that without the injunction against the state institutions and officials in this case, an order entered on state-law grounds necessarily would be limited. The relief substantially concerns Pennhurst, an arm of the State that is operated by state officials. Moreover, funding for the county mental retardation programs comes almost entirely from the State, see Pa. Stat. Ann., Tit. 50, §§ 4507-4509 (Purdon 1969 and Supp. 1983-1984), and the costs of the Masters have been borne by the State, see 446 F.Supp., at 1327. Finally, the MH/MR Act contemplates that the state and county officials will cooperate in operating mental retardation programs. See In re Schmidt, 494 Pa., at 95-96, 429 A. 2d, at 635-636. In short, the present judgment could not be sustained on the basis of the state-law obligations of petitioner county officials. Indeed, any relief granted against the county officials on the basis of the state statute would be partial and incomplete at best. Such an ineffective enforcement of state law would not appear to serve the purposes of efficiency, convenience, and fairness that must inform the exercise of pendent jurisdiction.

V

LEdHN[1C] [1C]The Court of Appeals upheld the judgment of the District Court solely on the basis of Pennsylvania’s MH/MR Act. We hold that these federal courts lacked jurisdiction to enjoin petitioner state institutions and state officials on the basis of  [125] this state law. The District Court also rested its decision on the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See supra, at 93. On remand the Court of Appeals may consider to what extent, if any, the judgment may be sustained on these bases. 35 The court also may consider whether relief may be granted to respondents under the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U. S. C. §§ 60116063 (1976 ed. and Supp. V). The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

Dissent by: BRENNANSTEVENS

Dissent

JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.

I fully agree with JUSTICE STEVENS‘ dissent. Nevertheless, I write separately to explain that in view of my continued belief that the Eleventh Amendment “bars federal court suits against States only by citizens of other States,” Yeomans v. Kentucky, 423 U.S. 983, 984 (1975) (BRENNAN, J., dissenting), I would hold that petitioners are not entitled to invoke the protections of that Amendment in this federal-court suit by citizens of Pennsylvania. See Employees v. Missouri Dept. of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279, 298 (1973)(BRENNAN, J., dissenting); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 687 (1974) (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). In my view, Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), upon which the Court today relies, ante, at 98, recognized that the Eleventh Amendment, by its terms, erects a limited constitutional barrier prohibiting suits against States by citizens of another State; the decision, however, “accords to nonconsenting States only a nonconstitutional immunityfrom suit by its own citizens. ” Employees v. Missouri Dept. of Public  [126]  Health and Welfare, supra, at 313 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting) (emphasis added). For scholarly discussions supporting this view, see Gibbons, The Eleventh Amendment and StateSovereign Immunity: A Reinterpretation, 83 Colum. L. Rev. 1889, 1893-1894 (1983); Field, The Eleventh Amendment and Other Sovereign Immunity Doctrines: Part One, 126 U. Pa. L. Rev. 515, 538-540, and n. 88 (1978). To the extent that such nonconstitutionalsovereign immunity may apply to petitioners, I agree with JUSTICE STEVENS that since petitioners’ conduct was prohibited by state law, the protections of sovereign immunitydo not extend to them.

JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICEBLACKMUN join, dissenting.

This case has illuminated the character of an institution. The record demonstrates that the Pennhurst State School and Hospital has been operated in violation of state law. In 1977, after three years of litigation, the District Court entered detailed findings of fact that abundantly support that conclusion. In 1981, after four more years of litigation, this Court ordered the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to decide whether the law of Pennsylvania provides an independent and adequate ground which can support the District Court’s remedial order. The Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, unanimously concluded that it did. This Court does not disagree with that conclusion. Rather, it reverses the Court of Appeals because it did precisely what this Court ordered it to do; the only error committed by the Court of Appeals was its faithful obedience to this Court’s command.

This remarkable result is the product of an equally remarkable misapplication of the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity. In a completely unprecedented holding, today the Court concludes that Pennsylvania’s sovereign immunity prevents a federal court from enjoining the conduct that Pennsylvania itself has prohibited. No rational view of the sovereignimmunity of the States supports this result. To the  [127]  contrary, the question whether a federal court may award injunctive relief on the basis of state law has been answered affirmatively by this Court many times in the past. Yet the Court repudiates at least 28 cases, spanning well over a century of this Court’s jurisprudence, proclaiming instead that federal courts have no power to enforce the will of the States by enjoining conduct because it violates state law. This new pronouncement will require the federal courts to decide federal constitutional questions despite the availability of state-law grounds for decision, a result inimical to sound principles of judicial restraint. Nothing in the Eleventh Amendment, the conception of state sovereignty it embodies, or the history of this institution, requires or justifies such a perverse result.

I

The conduct of petitioners that the Court attributes to the State of Pennsylvania in order to find it protected by the Eleventh Amendment is described in detail in the District Court’s findings. As noted in our prior opinion, Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1 (1981), and by the majority today, ante, at 92-93, those findings were undisputed: “Conditions at Pennhurst are not only dangerous, with the residents often physically abused or drugged by staff members, but also inadequate for the ‘habilitation’ of the retarded. Indeed, the court found that the physical, intellectual, and emotional skills of some residents have deteriorated at Pennhurst.” 451 U.S., at 7 (footnote omitted). The court concluded that Pennhurst was actually hazardous to its residents. 1 Organized programs of training or education  [128]  were inadequate or entirely unavailable, and programs of treatment or training were not developed for residents. When they visited Pennhurst, shocked parents of residents would find their children bruised, drugged, and unattended. These conditions often led to a deterioration in the condition of the residents after being placed in Pennhurst. Terri Lee Halderman, for example, was learning to talk when she entered Pennhurst; after residing there she lost her verbal skills. At every stage of this litigation, petitioners have conceded that Pennhurst fails to provide even minimally adequate habilitation for its residents. See Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital, 612 F.2d 84, 92-94 (CA3 1979) (en banc); 446 F.Supp. 1295, 1304 (ED Pa. 1977).

The District Court held that these conditions violated each resident’s rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, 29 U. S. C. § 794, and the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Pa. Stat. Ann., Tit. 50, §§ 4101-4704 (Purdon 1969 and Supp. 1983-1984) (MH/MR Act). The en banc Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed most of the District Court’s judgment, but it grounded its decision solely on the “bill of rights” provision in the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act,42 U. S. C. § 6010. The court did not consider the constitutional issues or § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. While it affirmed the District Court’s holding that the MH/MR Act provides a right to adequate habilitation, the court did not decide whether that state right justified all of the relief granted by the District Court.

Petitioners sought review by this Court, asserting that the Court of Appeals had erred in its construction of both federal and state statutes. This Court granted certiorari and reversed,  [129]  451 U.S. 1 (1981), holding that 42 U. S. C. § 6010 created no substantive rights. We did not accept respondents’ state-law contention, because there was a possibility that the Court of Appeals’ analysis of the state statute had been influenced by its erroneous reading of federal law. Concluding that it was “unclear whether state law provides an independent and adequate ground which can support the court’s remedial order,” 451 U.S., at 31, we “[remanded] the state-law issue for reconsideration in light of our decision here.” Ibid. In a footnote we declined to consider the effect of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s then recent decision, In re Schmidt, 494 Pa. 86, 429 A. 2d 631 (1981), on the state-law issues in the case, expressly stating that on remand the Court of Appeals could “consider the state-law issues in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision.” 451 U.S., at 31, n. 24.

On remand, 673 F.2d 647 (CA3 1982) (en banc), the Court of Appeals, noting that this Court had remanded for reconsideration of the state-law issue, examined the impact ofSchmidt2 According to the Court of Appeals, which was unanimous on this point, the State Supreme Court had “spoken definitively” on the duties of the State under the MH/MR Act, holding that the State was required to provide care to the mentally retarded in the “least restrictive environment.” 673 F.2d, at 651. Since the MH/MR Act fully justified the relief issued in the Court of Appeals’ prior judgment, the court reinstated its prior judgmenton the basis of petitioners’ violation of state law. 3

 [130]  Thus, the District Court found that petitioners have been operating the Pennhurst facility in a way that is forbidden by state law, by federal statute, and by the Federal Constitution. The en banc Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously concluded that state law provided a clear and adequate basis for upholding the District Court and that it was not necessary to address the federal questions decided by that court. That action conformed precisely to the directive issued by this Court when the case was here before. Petitioners urge this Court to make an unprecedented about-face, and to hold that theEleventh Amendment prohibited the Court of Appeals from doing what this Court ordered it to do when we instructed it to decide whether respondents were entitled to relief under state law. Of course, if petitioners are correct, then error was committed not by the Court of Appeals, which after all merely obeyed the instruction of this Court, but rather by this Court in 1981 when we ordered the Court of Appeals to consider the state-law issues in the case.

Petitioners’ position is utterly without support. The Eleventh Amendment and the doctrine of sovereign immunity it embodies have never been interpreted to deprive a court of jurisdiction to grant relief against government officials who are engaged in conduct that is forbidden by their sovereign. On the contrary, this Court has repeatedly and consistently exercised the power to enjoin state officials from violating state law. 4

II

The majority proceeds as if this Court has not had previous occasion to consider theEleventh Amendment argument made by petitioners, and contends that Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), has no application to a suit seeking injunctive relief on the basis of state law. That is simply not the case. The Court rejected the argument that the Eleventh [131]  Amendment precludes injunctive relief on the basis of state law twice only two Terms ago. In Florida Dept. of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670 (1982), four Justices concluded that a suit for possession of property in the hands of state officials was not barred by the Eleventh Amendment inasmuch as the State did not have even a colorable claim to the property under state law. See id., at 696-697 (opinion of STEVENS, J., joined by BURGER, C. J., and MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ.). Four additional Justices accepted the proposition that if the state officers’ conduct had been in violation of a state statute, the Eleventh Amendment would not bar the action. Id., at 714 (WHITE, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part, joined by POWELLREHNQUIST, andO’CONNOR, JJ.). 5 And in just one short paragraph in Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85 (1982),the Court thrice restated the settled rule that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits against state officers when they are “alleged to be acting against federal or state law.” 6These  [132]  are only the two most recent in an extraordinarily long line of cases.

By 1908, it was firmly established that conduct of state officials under color of office that is tortious as a matter of state law is not protected by the Eleventh Amendment. See Reaganv. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 154 U.S. 362, 390-391 (1894)Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 287 (1885)Cunningham v. Macon & Brunswick R. Co., 109 U.S. 446, 452 (1883).7 Cf. Belknap v. Schild, 161 U.S. 10, 18 (1896) (same rule adopted for sovereign immunityof the United States); Stanley v. Schwalby, 147 U.S. 508, 518-519 (1893) (same). 8 InHopkins v. Clemson Agricultural College, 221  [133]  U.S. 636 (1911), the Court explained the relationship of these cases to the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

“[Immunity] from suit is a high attribute of sovereignty — a prerogative of the State itself — which cannot be availed of by public agents when sued for their own torts. The Eleventh Amendment was not intended to afford them freedom from liability in any case where, under color of their office, they have injured one of the State’s citizens. To grant them suchimmunity would be to create a privileged class free from liability for wrongs inflicted or injuries threatened. . . .

“. . . Besides, neither a State nor an individual can confer upon an agent authority to commit a tort so as to excuse the perpetrator. In such cases the law of agency has no application — the wrongdoer is treated as a principal and individually liable for the damages inflicted and subject to injunction against the commission of acts causing irreparable injury.” Id., at 642-6439

 [134]  The principles that were decisive in these cases are not confined to actions under state tort law. They also apply to claims that state officers have violated state statutes. InJohnson v. Lankford, 245 U.S. 541 (1918), the Court reversed the dismissal of an action against the bank commissioner of Oklahoma and his surety to recover damages for the loss of plaintiff’s bank deposit, allegedly caused by the commissioner’s failure to safeguard the business and assets of the bank in negligent or willful disregard of his duties under applicable state statutes. The Court explained that the action was not one against the State.

“To answer it otherwise would be to assert, we think, that whatever an officer does, even in contravention of the laws of the State, is state action, identifies him with it and makes the redress sought against him a claim against the State and therefore prohibited by theEleventh Amendment. Surely an officer of a State may be delinquent without involving the State in delinquency, indeed, may injure the State by delinquency as well as some resident of the State, and be amenable to both.” Id., at 545.

Similarly, in Rolston v. Missouri Fund Commissioners, 120 U.S. 390 (1887), the Court rejected the argument that a suit to enjoin a state officer to comply with state law violated the Eleventh Amendment. The Court wrote: “Here the suit is to get a state officer to do what a statute requires of him. The litigation is with the officer, not the state.” Id., at 411.10

 [135]  Significantly, this rule was expressly reaffirmed in a case decided by this Court in the same Term as Ex parte Young and published in the same volume of the United States Reports.  [136]  The appellants in Scully v. Bird, 209 U.S. 481 (1908), brought a diversity suit seeking injunctive relief against the dairy and food commissioner of the State of Michigan, on the ground that “under cover of his office” he had maliciously engaged in a course of conduct designed to ruin plaintiffs’ business in the State. The Circuit Court dismissed the complaint on Eleventh Amendment grounds. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that the Eleventh Amendment “does not apply where a suit is brought against defendants who, claiming to act as officers of the State, and under color of a statute which is valid and constitutional, but wrongfully administered by them, commit, or threaten to commit, acts of wrong or injury to the rights and property of the plaintiff, or make such administration of the statute an illegal burden and exaction upon the plaintiff.” Ibid. This Court agreed. It noted that the complaint alleged action “in dereliction of duties enjoined by the statutes of the State,” and concluded that it was “manifest from this summary of the allegations of the bill that this is not a suit against the State.” Id., at 49011

Finally, in Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R. Co., 244 U.S. 499 (1917), and its companion cases, Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Greene, 244 U.S. 522 (1917)Illinois Central R. Co. v.Greene, 244 U.S. 555 (1917), the plaintiffs challenged the conduct of state officials under both federal and state law. The Court, citing, inter alia, Young and Clemson, held that theEleventh Amendment did not bar injunctive relief on the basis of state law, noting that the plaintiffs’ federal claim was sufficiently substantial to justify the exercise  [137]  of pendent jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ state-law claims, 12 and that since violations of federal and state law had been alleged, it was appropriate for the federal court to issue injunctive relief on the basis of state law without reaching the federal claims, despite the strictures of the Eleventh Amendment. In short, the Greene Court approved of precisely the methodology employed by the Court of Appeals in this case. 13

None of these cases contain only “implicit” or sub silentio holdings; all of them explicitly consider and reject the claim that the Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from issuing injunctive relief based on state law. There is therefore no basis for the majority’s assertion that the issue presented by this case is an open one, ante, at 119. 14

 [138]  The Court tries to explain away these cases by arguing that the applicable state statutes gave petitioners such “broad discretion” over Pennhurst that their actions were not ultra vires, ante, at 110-111. The Court, however, does not dispute the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that these state statutes gave petitioners no discretion whatsoever to disregard their duties with respect to institutionalization of the retarded as they did. Petitioners acted outside of their lawful discretion every bit as much as did the government officials in the cases I have discussed, which hold that when an official commits an act prohibited by law, he acts beyond his authority and is not protected by sovereignimmunity15 After all, it is only common sense to conclude that States do not authorize their officers to violate their legal duties.

The Court also relies heavily on the fact that the District Court found petitioners immune from damages liability because they “‘acted in the utmost good faith . . . within the sphere of their official responsibilities,'” ante, at 107 (emphasis in original) (quoting 446 F.Supp., at 1324). This confuses two distinct concepts. An official can act in good faith and therefore be immune from damages liability despite the  [139]  fact that he has done that which the law prohibits, a point recognized as recently as Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982).Nevertheless, good-faith immunity from damages liability is irrelevant to the availability of injunctive relief. See Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 314-315, n. 6 (1975). The state officials acted in nothing less than good faith and within the sphere of their official responsibilities in asserting Florida’s claim to the treasure in Treasure Salvors; the same can be said for the bank commissioner’s actions in safeguarding bank deposits challenged in Johnson v. Lankford, the fund commissioner’s decision to sell property mortgaged to the State challenged in Rolston, and the state food and dairy commissioner’s decision to prosecute the appellant for violating the state food impurity Act challenged in Scully, to give just a few examples. Yet in each of these cases the state officers’ conduct was enjoined. Greene makes this point perfectly clear. There state officers did nothing more than carry out responsibilities clearly assigned to them by a statute. Their conduct was nevertheless enjoined because this Court held that their conduct violated the State Constitution, despite the fact that their reliance on a statute made it perfectly clear that their conduct was not only in good faith but reasonable. See Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31 (1979). Until today the rule has been simple: conduct that exceeds the scope of an official’s lawful discretion is not conduct the sovereign has authorized and hence is subject to injunction. 16 Whether that conduct also gives rise to damages liability is an entirely separate question.

 [140]  III

On its face, the Eleventh Amendment applies only to suits against a State brought by citizens of other States and foreign nations. 17 This textual limitation upon the scope of the States’ immunity from suit in federal court was set aside in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890)Hans was a suit against the State of Louisiana, brought by a citizen of Louisiana seeking to recover interest on the State’s bonds. The Court stated that some of the arguments favoring sovereign immunity for the States made during the process of the Amendment’s ratification had become a part of the judicial scheme created by the Constitution. As a result, the Court concluded that the Constitution prohibited a suit by a citizen against his or her own State. When called upon to elaborate in Monaco v.Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313 (1934), the Court explained that the Eleventh Amendment did more than simply prohibit suits brought by citizens of one State against another State.Rather, it exemplified the broader and more ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity, which operates to  [141]  bar a suit brought by a citizen against his own State without its consent. 18

The Court has subsequently adhered to this interpretation of the Eleventh Amendment.For example, in Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979), the Court referred to the Eleventh Amendment as incorporating “the traditional sovereign immunity of the States.” Id., at 341. Similarly, in Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976), the Court referred to “theEleventh Amendment, and the principle of state sovereignty which it embodies . . . .” Id., at 456. See also Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 438-441 (1979) (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting). 19Thus, under our cases it is the doctrine of sovereign immunity, rather than the text of the Amendment  [142]  itself, which is critical to the analysis of any Eleventh Amendmentproblem. 20

The doctrine of sovereign immunity developed in England, where it was thought that the King could not be sued. However, common-law courts, in applying the doctrine, traditionally distinguished between the King and his agents, on the theory that the King would never authorize unlawful conduct, and that therefore the unlawful acts of the King’s officers ought not to be treated as acts of the sovereign. See 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *244. As early as the 15th century, Holdsworth writes, servants of the King were held liable for their unlawful acts. See 3 W. Holdsworth, A History of English Law 388 (1903). During the 17th century, this rule of law was used extensively to curb the King’s authority. The King’s officers

“could do wrong, and if they committed wrongs, whether in the course of their employment or not, they could be made legally liable. The command or instruction of the king could not protect them. If the king really had given such commands or instructions, he must have been deceived.” 6 id., at 101 (footnote omitted).

In one famous case, it was held that although process would not issue against thesovereign himself, it could issue against his officers. “[For] the warrant of no man, not even of the King himself, can excuse the doing of an illegal act.” Sands v. Child, 3 Lev. 351, 352, 83 Eng. Rep. 725, 726 (K. B. 1693). 21 By the 18th century, this rule of law was unquestioned.  [143]  See 10 Holdsworth, supra, at 650-652. And in the 19th century this view was taken by the court to be so well settled as not to require the citation of authority, see Feather v. Queen, 6 B. & S. 257, 295-297, 122 Eng. Rep. 1191, 1205-1206 (Q. B. 1865). 22

It was only natural, then, that this Court, in applying the principles of sovereign immunity, recognized the distinction between a suit against a State and one against its officer. 23For example, while the Court did inquire as to whether a suit was “in essence” against thesovereign, it soon became settled law that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar suits against state officials in their official capacities challenging unconstitutional conduct. SeeSmyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466, 518-519 (1898)Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, 140 U.S. 1, 10-12 (1891)Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 288 (1885)24 This rule was reconciled withsovereign immunity  [144]  principles by use of the traditional rule that an action against an agent of the sovereign who had acted unlawfully was not considered to be against thesovereign. When an official acts pursuant to an unconstitutional statute, the Court reasoned, the absence of valid authority leaves the official ultra vires his authority, and thus a private actor stripped of his status as a representative of the sovereign. 25 In Exparte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Court was merely restating a settled principle when it wrote:

“The Act to be enforced is alleged to be unconstitutional, and if it be so, the use of the name of the State to enforce an unconstitutional act to the injury of complainants is a proceeding without the authority of and one which does not affect the State in itssovereign or governmental capacity. It is simply an illegal act upon the part of a state official in attempting by the use of the name of the State to enforce a legislative enactment which is void because unconstitutional. If the act which the state Attorney General seeks to enforce be a violation of the Federal Constitution, the officer in proceeding under such enactment comes into conflict with the superior authority of that Constitution, and he is in that case stripped of his official or representative character and is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct.” Id., at 159-16026

 [145]  The majority states that the holding of Ex parte Young is limited to cases in which relief is provided on the basis of federal law, and that it rests entirely on the need to protect the supremacy of federal law. That position overlooks the foundation of the rule ofYoung as well Pennoyer v. McConnaughy and Young‘s other predecessors.

The Young Court distinguished between the State and its Attorney General because the latter, in violating the Constitution, had engaged in conduct the sovereign could not authorize. The pivotal consideration was not that the conduct violated federal law, since nothing in the jurisprudence of the Eleventh Amendment permits a suit against a sovereignmerely because federal law is at issue. 27 Indeed, at least since Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), the law has been settled that the Eleventh Amendment applies even though the State is accused of violating the Federal Constitution. In Hans the Court held that theEleventh Amendment applies to all cases within the jurisdiction of the federal courts including those brought to require compliance with federal law, and bars any suit where the State is the proper defendant under sovereign immunity principles. A long line of cases has endorsed that proposition, holding that irrespective  [146]  of the need to vindicate federal law a suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment if the State is the proper defendant. 28 It was clear until today that “the State [is not] divested of its immunity ‘on the mere ground that the case is one arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States.'” Parden v. Terminal Railway of Ala. Docks Dept., 377 U.S. 184, 186 (1964) (quotingHans, 134 U.S., at 10).

The pivotal consideration in Young was that it was not conduct of the sovereign that was at issue. 29 The rule that unlawful acts of an officer should not be attributed to thesovereign has deep roots in the history of sovereign immunity and makes Youngreconcilable with the principles of sovereign immunity found in the Eleventh Amendment,30 rather  [147]  than merely an unprincipled accommodation between federal and state interests that ignores the principles contained in the Eleventh Amendment.

This rule plainly applies to conduct of state officers in violation of state law. Young states that the significance of the charge of unconstitutional conduct is that it renders the state official’s conduct “simply an illegal act,” and hence the officer is not entitled to thesovereign’s immunity. Since a state officer’s conduct in violation of state law is certainly no less illegal than his violation of federal law, in either case the official, by committing an illegal act, is “stripped of his official or representative character.” For example, one ofYoung‘s predecessors held that a suit challenging an unconstitutional attempt by the Virginia Legislature to disavow a state contract was not barred by the Eleventh Amendment, reasoning that

“inasmuch as, by the Constitution of the United States, which is also the supreme law of Virginia, that contract, when made, became thereby unchangeable, irrepealable by the State, the subsequent act of January 26, 1882, and all other like acts, which deny the obligation of that contract and forbid its performance, are not the acts of the State of Virginia. The true and real Commonwealth which contracted the obligation is incapable in law of doing anything in derogation of it. Whatever having that effect, if operative, has been attempted or done, is the work of its government acting without authority, in violation of its fundamental law, and must be looked upon, in all courts of justice, as if it were not and never had been. . . . The State of Virginia has done none of  [148]  these things with which this defence charges her. The defendant in error is not her officer, her agent, or her representative, in the matter complained of, for he has acted not only without her authority, but contrary to her express commands.” Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S., at 292-293 (emphasis supplied). 31

It is clear that the Court in Poindexter attached no significance to the fact that Virginia had been accused of violating federal and not its own law. 32 To the contrary, the Court treated the Federal Constitution as part of Virginia’s law, and concluded that the challenged action was not that of Virginia precisely because it violated Virginia’s law. The majority’s position turns the Young doctrine on its head — sovereign immunity did not bar actions challenging unconstitutional conduct by state officers since the Federal Constitution was also to be considered part of the State’s law — and since the State could not and would not authorize a violation of its own law, the officers’ conduct was considered individual  [149]  and not sovereign. No doubt the Courts that produced Poindexter andYoung would be shocked to discover that conduct authorized by state law but prohibited by federal law is not considered conduct attributable to the State for sovereign immunitypurposes, but conduct prohibited by state law is considered conduct attributable to the very State which prohibited that conduct. Indeed, in Tindal v. Wesley, 167 U.S. 204 (1899), the Court specifically found that it was impossible to distinguish between a suit challenging unconstitutional conduct of state officers and a suit challenging any other type of unlawful behavior:

“If a suit against officers of a State to enjoin them from enforcing an unconstitutional statute . . . be not one against the State, it is impossible to see how a suit against the individuals to recover the possession of property belonging to the plaintiff and illegally withheld by the defendants can be deemed a suit against the State.” Id., at 22233

These cases are based on the simple idea that an illegal act strips the official of his state-law shield, thereby depriving the official of the sovereign’s immunity. The majority criticizes this approach as being “out of touch with reality” because it ignores the practical impact of an injunction on the  [150]  State though directed at its officers. Ante, at 106-108. Yet that criticism cannot account for Young, since an injunction has the same effect on the State whether it is based on federal or state law. Indeed, the majority recognizes that injunctions approved by Young have an “obvious impact on the State itself,” ante, at 104. In the final analysis the distinction between the State and its officers, realistic or not, is one firmly embedded in the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It is that doctrine and not any theory of federal supremacy which the Framers placed in the Eleventh Amendment and which this Court therefore has a duty to respect.

It follows that the basis for the Young rule is present when the officer sued has violated the law of the sovereign; in all such cases the conduct is of a type that would not be permitted by the sovereign and hence is not attributable to the sovereign under traditionalsovereign immunity principles. In such a case, the sovereign’s interest lies with those who seek to enforce its laws, rather than those who have violated them.

“[Public] officials may become tort-feasors by exceeding the limits of their authority. And where they unlawfully seize or hold a citizen’s realty or chattels, recoverable by appropriate action at law or in equity . . . [the] dominant interest of the sovereign is then on the side of the victim who may bring his possessory action to reclaim that which is wrongfully withheld.” Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 738 (1947)34

The majority’s position that the Eleventh Amendment does not permit federal courts to enjoin conduct that the sovereign State itself seeks to prohibit thus is inconsistent with both  [151]  the doctrine of sovereign immunity and the underlying respect for the integrity of state policy which the Eleventh Amendment protects. The issuance of injunctive relief which enforces state laws and policies, if anything, enhances federal courts’ respect for the sovereign prerogatives of the States. 35 The majority’s approach, which requires federal courts to ignore questions of state law and to rest their decisions on federal bases, will create more rather than less friction between the States and the federal judiciary.

Moreover, the majority’s rule has nothing to do with the basic reason the Eleventh Amendment was added to the Constitution. There is general agreement that the Amendment was passed because the States were fearful that federal courts would force them to pay their Revolutionary War debts, leading to their financial ruin. 36 Entertaining a suit for injunctive relief based on state law implicates none of the concerns of the Framers. Since only injunctive relief is sought there is no threat to the state treasury of the type that concerned the Framers, see Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267, 288-290 (1977)Edelmanv. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 667-668 (1974); and if the State wishes to avoid the federal injunction, it can easily do so simply by changing its law. The possibility of States left helpless in the face of disruptive federal decrees which led to the passage of the Eleventh [152]  Amendment simply is not presented by this case. Indeed, the Framers no doubt would have preferred federal courts to base their decisions on state law, which the State is then free to reexamine, rather than forcing courts to decide cases on federal grounds, leaving the litigation beyond state control.

In light of the preceding, it should come as no surprise that there is absolutely no authority for the majority’s position that the rule of Young is inapplicable to violations of state law. The only cases the majority cites, ante, at 105-106, for the proposition that Young is limited to the vindication of federal law do not consider the question whether Young permits injunctive relief on the basis of state law — in each of the cases the question was neither presented, briefed, argued, nor decided. 37 It is curious, to say the least, that the majority disapproves of reliance on cases in which the issue we face today was decided sub silentio, see ante, at 119, yet it is willing to rely on cases in which the issue was not decided at all. In fact, not only is there no precedent for the majority’s position, but, as I have demonstrated in Part II, supra, there is an avalanche of precedent squarely to the contrary. 38

 [153]  That the doctrine of sovereign immunity does not protect conduct which has been prohibited by the sovereign is clearly demonstrated by the case on which petitioners chiefly rely, Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682 (1949). The Larsonopinion teaches that the actions of state officials are not attributable to the State — are ultra vires — in two different types of situations: (1) when the official is engaged in conduct that the sovereign has not authorized, and (2) when he has engaged in conduct that thesovereign has forbidden. A sovereign, like any other principal, cannot authorize its agent to violate the law. When an agent does so, his actions are considered ultra vires and he is liable for his own conduct under the law of agency. Both types of ultra vires conduct are clearly identified in Larson.

“There may be, of course, suits for specific relief against officers of the sovereign which are not suits against the sovereign. If the officer purports to act as an individual and not as an official, a suit directed against that action is not a suit against the sovereign. If the War Assets Administrator had completed a sale of his personal home, he presumably could be enjoined from later conveying it to a third person. On a similar theory, where the officer’s powers are limited by statute, his actions beyond those limitations are considered individual and not sovereign actions. The officer is not doing  [154]  the business which the sovereignhas empowered him to do or he is doing it in a way which the sovereign has forbidden. His actions are ultra vires his authority and therefore may be made the object of specific relief.It is important to note that in such cases the relief can be granted, without impleading thesovereign, only because of the officer’s lack of delegated power. A claim of error in the exercise of that power is therefore not sufficient. And, since the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case may depend, as we have recently recognized, upon the decision which it ultimately reaches on the merits, it is necessary that the plaintiff set out in his complaint the statutory limitation on which he relies.” Id., at 689-690 (emphasis supplied).

Larson thus clearly indicates that the immunity determination depends upon the merits of the plaintiff’s claim. The same approach is employed by Young — the plaintiff can overcomethe state official’s immunity only by succeeding on the merits of its claim of unconstitutional conduct.

Following the two-track analysis of Larson, the cases considering the question whether the state official is entitled to the sovereign’s immunity can be grouped into two categories. In cases like Larson, Malone v. Bowdoin, 369 U.S. 643 (1962), and Florida Dept. of State v.Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670 (1982), which usually involve the State functioning in its proprietary capacity, the ultra vires issue can be resolved solely by reference to the law of agency. Since there is no specific limitation on the powers of the officers other than the general limitations on their authority, the only question that need be asked is whether they have acted completely beyond their authority. But when the State has placed specific limitations on the manner in which state officials may perform their duties, as it often does in regulatory or other administrative contexts such as were considered in Scully v. Bird, 209 U.S. 481 (1908), and Johnson v.  [155]  Lankford, 245 U.S. 541 (1918), the ultra vires inquiry also involves the question whether the officials acted in a way that state law forbids. No sovereign would authorize its officials to violate its own law, and if the official does so, then Larson indicates that his conduct is ultra vires and not protected bysovereign immunity.

Larson confirms that the Court’s disposition of this case in 1981 — ordering the Court of Appeals to consider respondents’ state-law claims — was fully harmonious with establishedsovereign immunity principles. The jurisdiction of the federal court was established by a federal claim; 39 the Court of Appeals therefore had jurisdiction to resolve the case and to grant injunctive relief on either federal or state grounds. Respondents pleaded a specific statutory limitation on the way in which petitioners were entitled to run Pennhurst. The District Court and the Court of Appeals have both found that petitioners operated Pennhurst in a way that the sovereign has forbidden. Specifically, both courts concluded that petitioners placed residents in Pennhurst without any consideration at all of the limitations on institutional confinement that are found in state law, and that they failed to create community living programs that are mandated by state law. In short, there can be no dispute that petitioners ran Pennhurst in a way that the sovereign had  [156] forbidden. Under the second track of the Larson analysis, petitioners were acting ultra vires because they were acting in a way that the sovereign, by statute, had forbidden. 40

 [157]  Petitioners readily concede, both in their brief and at oral argument, that theEleventh Amendment does not bar a suit against state officers who have acted ultra vires. The majority makes a similar concession, ante, at 101-102, n. 11. Yet both ignore the fact that the cases, and most especially Larson, set out a two-step analysis for ultra vires conduct — conduct that is completely beyond the scope of the officer’s authority, or conduct that the sovereign has forbidden. In fact, the majority goes so far as to quote the passage from Larson indicating that a state official acts ultra vires when he completely lacks power delegated from the State, ante, at 101, n. 11. That quotation ignores sentences immediately preceding and following the quoted passage stating in terms that where an official violates a statutory prohibition, he acts ultra vires and is not protected bysovereign immunity. This omission is understandable, since petitioners’ conduct in this case clearly falls into the category of conduct the sovereign has specifically forbidden by statute. Petitioners were told by Pennsylvania how to run Pennhurst, and there is no dispute that they disobeyed their instructions. Yet without explanation, the Court repudiates the two-track analysis of Larson and holds that sovereign immunity extends to conduct the sovereign has statutorily prohibited. 41 Thus, contrary  [158]  to the Court’s assertion, Larson is in conflict with the result reached today. 42

In sum, a century and a half of this Court’s Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence has established the following. A suit alleging that the official had acted within his authority but in a manner contrary to state statutes was not barred because the Eleventh Amendmentprohibits suits against States; it does not bar suits against state officials for actions not permitted by the State under its own law. The sovereign could not and would not authorize its officers to violate its own law; hence an action against a state officer seeking redress for conduct not permitted by state law is a suit against the officer, not thesovereign. Ex parte Young concluded in as explicit a fashion as possible that unconstitutional action by state officials is not action by the State even if it purports to be authorized by state law, because the Federal Constitution strikes down the state-law shield. In the tort cases, if the plaintiff proves his case, there is by definition no state-law defense to shield the defendant. Similarly, when the state officer violates a state statute, thesovereign has by definition erected no shield against liability. These precedents make clear that there is no foundation for the contention that the majority embraces — that Ex parte Young authorizes injunctive relief against state officials only on the basis of federal law. To the contrary, Young is as clear as a  [159]  bell: the Eleventh Amendment does not apply where there is no state-law shield. That simple principle should control this case.

IV

The majority’s decision in this case is especially unwise in that it overrules a long line of cases in order to reach a result that is at odds with the usual practices of this Court. In one of the most respected opinions ever written by a Member of this Court, JusticeBrandeis wrote:

“The Court [has] developed, for its own governance in the cases confessedly within its jurisdiction, a series of rules under which it has avoided passing upon a large part of all the constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision. They are:

. . . . .

“. . . The Court will not pass upon a constitutional question although properly presented by the record, if there is also present some other ground upon which the case may be disposed of. This rule has found most varied application. Thus, if a case can be decided on either of two grounds, one involving a constitutional question, the other a question of statutory construction or general law, the Court will decide only the latter. Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S. 175, 191.” Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 346-347 (1936)(concurring opinion).

The Siler case, cited with approval by Justice Brandeis in Ashwander, employed a remarkably similar approach to that used by the Court of Appeals in this case. A privately owned railroad corporation brought suit against the members of the railroad commission of Kentucky to enjoin the enforcement of a rate schedule promulgated by the commission. The Federal Circuit Court found that the schedule violated the plaintiff’s federal constitutional rights and granted relief.  [160]  This Court affirmed, but it refused to decide the constitutional question because injunctive relief against the state officials was adequately supported by state law. The Court held that the plaintiff’s claim that the schedule violated the Federal Constitution was sufficient to justify the assertion of federal jurisdiction over the case, but then declined to reach the federal question, deciding the case on the basis of state law instead:

“Where a case in this court can be decided without reference to questions arising under the Federal Constitution, that course is usually pursued and is not departed from without important reasons. In this case we think it much better to decide it with regard to the question of a local nature, involving the construction of the state statute and the authority therein given to the commission to make the order in question, rather than to unnecessarily decide the various constitutional questions appearing in the record.” Siler v.Louisville & Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S. 175, 193 (1909)43

The Siler principle has been applied on numerous occasions; when a suit against state officials has presented both federal constitutional questions and issues of state law, the Court has upheld injunctive relief on state-law grounds. See, e. g., Lee v. Bickell, 292 U.S. 415, 425 (1934)Glenn v. Field Packing Co., 290 U.S. 177, 178 (1933)Davis v. Wallace, 257 U.S. 478, 482-485 (1922)Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Greene, 244 U.S., at 527Greene v.Louisville & Interurban R. Co., 244 U.S., at 508, 512-51444

 [161]  In Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528 (1974), the Court quoted from the Siler opinion and noted that the “Court has characteristically dealt first with possibly dispositive state law claims pendent to federal constitutional claims.” 415 U.S., at 546. It added:

“Numerous decisions of this Court have stated the general proposition endorsed in Siler — that a federal court properly vested with jurisdiction may pass on the state or local law question without deciding the federal constitutional issues — and have then proceeded to dispose  [162]  of the case solely on the nonfederal ground. See, e. g., Hillsborough v.Cromwell, 326 U.S. 620, 629-630 (1946)Waggoner Estate v. Wichita County, 273 U.S. 113, 116-119 (1927)Chicago G.W.R. Co. v. Kendall, 266 U.S. 94 (1924)United Gas Co. v. Railroad Comm’n, 278 U.S. 300, 308 (1929)Risty v. Chicago, R.I. & P.R. Co., 270 U.S. 378, 387 (1926). These and other cases illustrate in practice the wisdom of the federal policy of avoiding constitutional adjudication where not absolutely essential to disposition of a case.” Id., at 547, n. 12.

In fact, in this very case we applied the Siler rule by remanding the case to the Court of Appeals with explicit instructions to consider whether respondents were entitled to relief under state law.

Not only does the Siler rule have an impressive historical pedigree, but it is also strongly supported by the interest in avoiding duplicative litigation and the unnecessary decision of federal constitutional questions.

“The policy’s ultimate foundations . . . lie in all that goes to make up the unique place and character, in our scheme, of judicial review of governmental action for constitutionality. They are found in the delicacy of that function, particularly in view of possible consequences for others stemming also from constitutional roots; the comparative finality of those consequences; the consideration due to the judgment of other repositories of constitutional power concerning the scope of their authority; the necessity, if government is to function constitutionally, for each to keep within its power, including the courts; the inherent limitations of the judicial process, arising especially from its largely negative character and limited resources of enforcement; withal in the paramount importance of constitutional adjudication in our  [163]  system.” Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 331 U.S. 549, 571 (1947)45

In addition, application of the Siler rule enhances the decisionmaking autonomy of the States. Siler directs the federal court to turn first to state law, which the State is free to modify or repeal. 46 By leaving the policy determinations underlying injunctive relief in the hands of the State, the Court of Appeals’ approach gives appropriate deference to established state policies.

In contrast, the rule the majority creates today serves none of the interests of the State. The majority prevents federal courts from implementing state policies through equitable enforcement of state law. Instead, federal courts are required to resolve cases on federal grounds that no state authority can undo. Leaving violations of state law unredressed and ensuring that the decisions of federal courts may never be reexamined by the States hardly comports with the respect for States as sovereign entities commanded by theEleventh Amendment.

V

One basic fact underlies this case: far from immunizing petitioners’ conduct, the State of Pennsylvania prohibited it. Respondents do not complain about the conduct of the State of Pennsylvania — it is Pennsylvania’s commands which they seek to enforce. Respondents seek only to have Pennhurst  [164]  run the way Pennsylvania envisioned that it be run. Until today, the Court understood that the Eleventh Amendment does not shield the conduct of state officers which has been prohibited by their sovereign.

Throughout its history this Court has derived strength from institutional self-discipline. Adherence to settled doctrine is presumptively the correct course. 47 Departures are, of course, occasionally required by changes in the fabric of our society. 48 When a court, rather than a legislature, initiates  [165]  such a departure, it has a special obligation to explain and to justify the new course on which it has embarked. Today, however, the Court casts aside well-settled respected doctrine that plainly commands affirmance of the Court of Appeals — the doctrine of the law of the case, 49 the doctrine of stare decisis (the Court repudiates at least 28 cases), 50 the  [166]  doctrine of sovereign immunity51the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction, 52 and the doctrine of judicial restraint. No sound reason justifies the further prolongation of this litigation or this Court’s voyage into the sea of undisciplined lawmaking.

 [167]  As I said at the outset, this case has illuminated the character of an institution.

I respectfully dissent.

 

 

 

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