The purpose of the 11th amendment to the US Constitution is to prohibit the US courts from hearing the court cases against states if the suit is commenced by a citizen of another state or a foreign country. This amendment is important because it provides the basis for sovereign immunity of states.


The creation of the US Constitution is a long process that required continuous clarification and improvement based on historical events. The 11th amendment to the US Constitution was proposed in 1794 and ratified by most states in 1795. It was aimed at protecting the states from being subject to lawsuits brought by the individuals who live in other states. In simple terms, according to this correction of the article in the Constitution, the judicial system does not review any cases against any of the United States if they are initiated by the citizens who do not live in the same state. As any other amendment, it specifies the terms of an article of the US Constitution by eliminating uncertainties and clarifying the law. In this particular case, the 11th amendment addresses the difficulties related to the interpretation of the scope of judicial power and the duties of the states.

In particular, before the amendment was ratified, Section 2 of Article III of the US Constitution was misinterpreted due to the wrong perception of the state’s sovereign status in dealing with controversies. The reason for initiating the amendment was the Chisholm v. Georgia case of 1793 when the lawsuit commenced by a citizen of South Carolina against the state of Georgia was brought to the federal court. Chisholm referred to the US Supreme Court to commence a lawsuit against the state of Georgia claiming that the state owes him money for goods. The court decided to favor the claim and required the state of Georgia to make the payment. However, Georgia did not come as a defendant to the court on this case claiming its sovereignty under the US Constitution.

It was assumed that a state is immune to any maltreatment and is protected from being brought to court by the citizens of other states. Since the existing article in the Constitution had not specifically underlined the sovereign status of the states in the judiciary system, an amendment was required. It was important to prevent similar misunderstandings from happening in the future.

The meaning of the 11th amendment is decisive for the development of the American judicial system and the principles of states’ sovereignty. The idea of sovereign immunity implies that a state is immune to unlawful deeds and consequently, cannot be a subject in a law case. However, there are some exceptions when the federal courts have permission to hear cases against states. Such particular situations include, for example, those when a sum under discussion exceeds $75,000. It affects us today by limiting a person to bringing a suit against a state only to a district court but not the federal court. On the one hand, the states are not suable in cases against foreign citizens and are legally protected from being held responsible for some decisions or actions. On the other hand, each state preserves its judicial independence by hearing the cases on a local level.