11th Amendment: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

The 11th Amendment to the US Constitution was added in 1795. Come learn about this amendment, why it was added to the Constitution, and some other interesting facts about this amendment.

What is the 11th Amendment?

If someone ran into your bicycle and broke it into pieces, you would probably want them to fix it or get you a new one. When things like that happen to adults, they sometimes hire a lawyer, go to court, and sue the other person or a company. And though people can sue other people and businesses, you can't sue your state or any other state thanks to the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution.

When a person sues someone else, they are using laws to try and get a US court to force a person or company to do something or give them something because they believe they've been mistreated or hurt.

In the case of the broken bicycle, you might sue the person for money to replace the bike if they don't want to take responsibility for it.

11th Amendment
11th Amendment

The 11th Amendment to the US Constitution says that US courts cannot hear cases and make decisions against a state if it is sued by a citizen who lives in another state or a person who lives in another country.

Unlike people and companies, states have sovereign (pronounced SAW-vrin) immunity, which means that they are protected by law from being sued unless they give permission or the federal government gives permission. Without this permission, the 11th Amendment stops courts from hearing cases if a state is sued.

Why was the 11th Amendment Added to the Constitution?

US Constitution
US Constitution

States didn't always have sovereign immunity. Not long after the Constitution was ratified, or approved, people could and did sue some states for different reasons.

One important case that led to the addition of the 11th Amendment was Chisholm vs. Georgia. A man named Chisholm, who lived in South Carolina, sued the state of Georgia in 1793 because he said it owed him money borrowed during the Revolutionary War. The Supreme Court said the case could go the federal courts.

At the same time, a British citizen sued the state of Massachusetts because his property had been taken away from him during the war. In order to prevent more lawsuits and keep British citizens from getting the land back that they lost, the 11th Amendment was added to the Constitution.

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