Chisholm v. Georgia

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Chisholm v. Georgia
2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419
Decided: February 18, 1793

Chisholm v. Georgia is considered the first U.S. Supreme Court case of significance. An estate executor named Alexander Chisholm and his friend (both from South Carolina) sued the State of Georgia over things the state owed them, and Georgia refused to appear before the Supreme Court because it had claimed that it was its own "sovereign state" and didn't need to answer to anybody. The Court, led by founding father John Jay, said that Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution annulled any sovereign immunity Georgia claimed and held that federal courts could hear disputes between private citizens and States. The Court ruled 4 to 1 in favor of Chisholm.

In addition to Jay, two of the other majority justices in the opinion — James Wilson and John Blair — were founding fathers. Apparently these original originalists were completely wrong in what they thought when they wrote the Constitution. People were outraged! As a result of Chisholm, the Eleventh Amendment was passed in 1795, overturning their ruling and removing federal jurisdiction in cases where citizens of one state attempted to sue another state under state law in federal court. Now, the only way a citizen of one state or country can sue another in federal court is if the state being sued agrees, or the U.S. Congress takes away the state's immunity in the case via the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lone dissenter in Chisholm, James Iredell, a very active revolutionary from North Carolina, was not involved in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, although he supported them both fervently. Iredell was instrumental in whipping up support for North Carolina's ratification of the new Constitution (but only after it included a Bill of Rights to protect the citizens from the federal government).