Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer

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Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 20–21, 1976
Decided June 28, 1976
Full case name Fitzpatrick, et al. v. Bitzer, Chairman, State Employees' Retirement Commission, et al. (75-251) consolidated with Bitzer, Chairman, State Employees' Retirement Commission, et al. v. Matthews, et al. (75-283)
Citations 427 U.S. 445 (more)
96 S. Ct. 2666; 49 L. Ed. 2d 614; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 160; 12 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1586; 12 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P10,999; 1 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 1040
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
The Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to override a State's Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity for the purpose of enforcing civil rights on the States.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell
Concurrence Brennan
Concurrence Stevens
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. XI, XIV

Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976),[1] was a United States Supreme Court decision that determined that the U.S. Congress has the power to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity of the states, if this is done pursuant to its Fourteenth Amendment power to enforce upon the states the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.


In 1972, Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e, Chapter 21, Subchapter VI) to allow individuals to sue state governments for money damages for discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin. The plaintiffs, a group of male retirees, sued the state of Connecticut for sex discrimination against them in its retirement policies. Connecticut invoked its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and the District Court, and Court of Appeals both allowed only injunctive relief, denying monetary recovery (although the Court of Appeals permitted attorney's fees). Both of those courts pointed to Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974), a prior United States Supreme Court case which had held that the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from ordering a U.S. state to pay money to an individual wronged by the state. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.


Can Congress abrogate state sovereign immunity under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment?


The Court, in an opinion by Justice William Rehnquist, distinguished previous cases where individuals had attempted to sue the states for money damages (or the equivalent) — including Edelman v. Jordan — because those cases had not involved an express provision by Congress permitting such a lawsuit. The Court ruled that Congress has the power under the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate sovereign immunity of states, because the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted specifically to limit the power of the states, with the purpose of enforcing civil rights guarantees against them.

See also

External links

  • ^ Text of Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia