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Connecticut v. Cahill

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20735
Nos. No. 99-7793, 217 F.3d 93/(2d Cir., 07/07/2000)

The court holds that the state of Connecticut may sue New York State officers in federal district court instead of suing New York State in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional New York law. The law at issue allows New York residents to obtain commercial lobstering permits to fish off of Fishers Island in New York, but the law prohibits those not domiciled in New York to take lobsters from a designated area near the island. The court first holds that New York State need not be named a real party-in-interest by Connecticut thereby triggering the Supreme Court's original exclusive jurisdiction over controversies between two states. A state whose officers' actions are challenged must be considered the real party-in-interest and, thus, be named as a defendant where the alleged injury was caused by action specifically authorized by state law and where the suit implicates the state's core sovereign interest. When a plaintiff-state's suit, nominally against state officers, concerns another state's core sovereign interest, the other state is the real defendant-party-in-interest, and that suit is within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. However, when a suit does not implicate a core area of a sister state's sovereignty, a plaintiff-state may opt to name that state's enforcement officers alone, or to name the state itself. Here, the alleged injury was caused by actions of New York State officers specifically authorized by state law, but the suit does not implicate core sovereign interests. The suit is a traditional equal protection claim against state officers of the sort regularly litigated in federal district courts, and it is not within the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Richard Blumenthal, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
55 Elm St., Hartford CT 06141
(860) 808-5318

Counsel for Defendant
Peter Lehner, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
120 Broadway, 25th Fl., New York NY 10271
(212) 416-8050

Before Walker, J., with Sotomayor, J., dissenting in a separate opinion