The US Supreme Court held for individual state sovereign immunity on Monday in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, overturning precedent that currently allows one state to be sued in the courts of another.
The case of Nevada v. Hall formerly set the relevant precedent in 1979, holding that a sovereign state can be sued in another state’s courts without its consent. The court wrote Monday that the Hall court misinterpreted the framers’ intention that states should retain their immunity from lawsuit at the founding of the Constitution.
Plaintiff Hyatt sued the Franchise Tax Board of California in Nevada for a number of intentional torts and bad-faith conduct. Because the Board is a governmental agency, it argued sovereign immunity. The Nevada Supreme Court held for Hyatt under Hall.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the 5-4 majority that “state sovereign immunity in another state’s courts is integral to the structure of the Constitution,” citing that the Full Faith and Credit Clause in this case required Nevada courts to grant the Board the same immunity that Nevada agencies enjoy.
Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, warning “each time the Court overrules a case, the Court produces increased uncertainty.”