<< News Scan | Main | Outstanding Warrants >>

Cons Suing States

Looks like this is "suing states" week at the US Supreme Court.  See prior post on states suing themselves.

Today's decision in Sossamon v. Texas involves the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 1993, one of Congress's oddest and most ill-considered pieces of legislation in modern times.  Land use and institutionalized persons?  Kind of like pickles and ice cream or fish and bicycles.  That odd combination was used to forge a political alliance among churches chafing under oppressive zoning restrictions, property rights advocates who welcome any chance to trim the power of the zoning officials, prison ministry folks who want us to believe that every prisoner claiming to have found Jesus really has, and prisoner rights advocates who welcome any weapon to sue prisons and make them more expensive to run.

Harvey Sossamon was on cell restriction for violating prison rules and as a result could not attend religious services.  Instead of resolving to obey the rules in the future and get off restriction, he sued the State of Texas for money damages.  Although Congress can use the Spending Clause to bribe states into waiving sovereign immunity in return for Uncle Sam's greenbacks, the Supreme Court has always strictly construed any statutory language claimed to be waiver of sovereign immunity.  The Court today held, 6-2, that general language authorizing "appropriate relief" is not so clear.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives