Supreme Court overturns 40-year-old precedent on suing states

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday overturned a precedent set in 1979 that denied states sovereign immunity from private lawsuits.

In the 5-4 ruling, the court’s conservative majority said in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas that the Constitution protects states from being “haled involuntarily before each other’s courts.”

Thomas acknowledged that the decision marked a departure from the normal respect for precedent, but justified it by saying the 1979 decision was “contrary to our constitutional design.”

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, saying it was “dangerous” to overrule a precedent simply because five justices have “come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question,” adding that the question now is “which cases the court will overrule next.”

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