Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer

427 U.S. 445 (1976).

A 1976 United States Supreme Court Opinion on the scope of Congressional authority to abrogate sovereign authority afforded to the states by the Eleventh Amendment.

The case involved a class action filed in a federal court by the past and present male employees of the State of Connecticut under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, asserting that the state’s statutory retirement plan unconstitutionally discriminated against them on the basis of gender.

The state asserted sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.

The Court held that Congress had the unilateral authority to directly override the states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity when legislating pursuant to section five of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Reasoning that the Civil Rights Act was enacted pursuant to section five of the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Rehnquist, writing for a unanimous Court, emphasized that the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment were directed at the states and that the congressional enforcement provisions of section five of the Fourteenth Amendment necessarily limit the states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity.

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