Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eleventh Amendment

"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."

This amendment means that one state cannot extend its jurisdiction into another state to file suit against a citizen.

This is an interesting article about a man who claims he is protected by this very amendment.

Publisher And School Board To Go To Trial
Daniel Gilbert Reporter / Bristol Herald Courier Published: October 3, 2009
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A newspaper publisher’s lawsuit against the Buchanan County School Board has survived a pre-trial appeal and motion for summary judgment, and appears headed for an Oct. 13 jury trial.
A U.S. District Court judge last week denied the school board’s motion for summary judgment in the 2007 suit brought by Earl Cole, publisher of The Voice, a bi-weekly paper in Buchanan County.
“I guess I’m going to get my day in court,” Cole said Friday by phone.
Cole’s complaint stems from October 2006 when he came onto the grounds of an elementary school to report a story about a school board member who sent his child to another district. Three days after he published a critical story on the board member, the school board banned him from setting foot on school premises – an action Cole contends “chilled” his First Amendment rights.
Attorneys for the school board have argued that the school board members are protected by qualified immunity, and that the resolution banning Cole from school grounds, which was later relaxed to allow him to vote and to attend public meetings, did not rise to the level of chilling his freedom of speech.
But James P. Jones, chief judge of the Western District of Virginia, in late 2007 denied the school board’s claim of immunity, ruling that board members had violated Cole’s constitutional rights.
school board appealed, and in May the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed Jones’ order, concluding the district judge had “improperly framed the issue.”
“The appropriate inquiry here is whether a reasonable board member could have believed that banning Cole from the Buchanan County school grounds was lawful,” states the appellate court’s opinion.
The opinion noted that the school board had heard concerns from parents about Cole appearing on school grounds with a camera while children were present, and that Cole had entered a school building during school hours – all before the October 2006 incident that gave rise to the board’s decision to ban him.
Given the breadth of the school board’s authority and the facts members possessed at the time, “a reasonable board member may well have believed it was his or her duty to ban Cole from school grounds in order to protect both the safety of the students and the integrity of the educational process.”
The appellate court’s decision dismissed the school board members individually, but did not apply to the board itself, which, the court noted, “cannot claim qualified immunity.”
Three months later, the Buchanan County School Board filed another motion for summary judgment, this time claiming that the Eleventh Amendment protected them from paying damages.
Jones denied this, noting that the school board “is an independent local government agency, not an arm of the state,” and that a judgment against the board would not be paid from the state’s treasury. The ruling leaves the board as the lone defendant in Cole’s suit.

This gentlemen clearly explains what the amendment means.

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