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Opinion of the Court.
their property without due process of law and without just compensation.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The questions in this case are of great importance, and have been most ably and satisfactorily discussed by counsel for the respective parties.
We are met at the threshold with an objection that this is in effect a suit against the State of Texas, brought by a citizen of another State, and, therefore, under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal court. The question as to when an action against officers of a State is to be treated as an action against the State has been of late several times carefully considered by this court, especially in the cases of In re Ayers, 123 U. S. 443, by Mr. Justice Matthews, and Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, 140 U. S. 1, by Mr. Justice Lamar. In the former of these cases it was said (p. 505):
"To secure the manifest purposes of the constitutional exemption guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment requires that it should be interpreted, not literally and too narrowly, but fairly, and with such breadth and largeness as effectually to accomplish the substance of its purpose. In this spirit it must be held to cover, not only suits brought against a State by name, but those also against its officers, agents, and representatives, where the State, though not named as such, is, nevertheless, the only real party against which alone in fact the relief is asked, and against which the judgment or decree effectively operates."
And in the latter (p. 9):
"It is well settled that no action can be maintained in any Federal court by the citizens of one of the States against a State, without its consent, even though the sole object of such suit be to bring the State within the operation of the constitutional provision which provides that no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.' This immunity
Opinion of the Court.
of a State from suit is absolute and unqualified, and the constitutional provision securing it is not to be so construed as to place the State within the reach of the process of the court. Accordingly, it is equally well settled that a suit against the officers of a State, to compel them to do the acts which constitute a performance by it of its contracts, is, in effect, a suit against the State itself.
"In the application of this latter principle, two classes of cases have appeared in the decisions of this court, and it is in determining to which class a particular case belongs that differing views have been presented.
"The first class is where the suit is brought against the officers of the State, as representing the State's action and liability, and thus making it, though not a party to the record, the real party against which the judgment will so operate as to compel it to specifically perform its contracts. In re Ayers, 123 U. S. 443; Louisiana v. Jumel, 107 U. S. 711; Antoni v. Greenhow, 107 U. S. 769; Cunningham v. Macon & Brunswick Railroad, 109 U. S. 446; Hagood v. Southern, 117 U. S.
"The other class is where a suit is brought against defendants who, claiming to act as officers of the State, and under the color of an unconstitutional statute, commit acts of wrong and injury to the rights and property of the plaintiff acquired under a contract with the State. Such suit, whether brought to recover money or property in the hands of such defendants, unlawfully taken by them in behalf of the State, or for compensation in damages, or, in a proper case where the remedy at law is inadequate, for an injunction to prevent such wrong and injury, or for a mandamus, in a like case, to enforce upon the defendant the performance of a plain, legal duty, purely ministerial — is not, within the meaning of the Eleventh Amendment, an action against the State. Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 9 Wheat. 738; Davis v. Gray, 16 Wall. 203; Tomlinson v. Branch, 15 Wall. 460; Litchfield v. Webster County, 101 U. S. 773; Allen v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, 114 U. S. 311; Board of Liquidation v. McComb, 92 U. S. 531; Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 270."
Opinion of the Court.
Appellants invoke the doctrines laid down in these two quotations, and insist that this action cannot be maintained because the real party against which alone in fact the relief is asked and against which the judgment or decree effectively operates is the State, and also because the statute under which the defendants acted and proposed to act is constitutional, and that the action of state officers under a constitutional statute is not subject to challenge in the Federal court. We are unable to yield our assent to this argument. So far from the State being the only real party in interest, and upon whom alone the judgment effectively operates, it has in a pecuniary sense no interest at all. Going back of all matters of form, the only parties pecuniarily affected are the shippers and the carriers, and the only direct pecuniary interest which the State can have arises when it abandons its governmental character and, as an individual, employs the railroad company to carry its property. There is a sense, doubtless, in which it may be said that the State is interested in the question, but only a governmental sense. It is interested in the well-being of its citizens, in the just and equal enforcement of all its laws; but such governmental interest is not the pecuniary interest which causes it to bear the burden of an adverse judgment. Not a dollar will be taken from the treasury of the State, no pecuniary obligation of it will be enforced, none of its property affected by any decree which may be rendered. It is not nearly so much affected by the decree in this case as it would be by an injunction against officers staying the collection of taxes, and yet a frequent and unquestioned exercise of jurisdiction of courts, state and Federal, is in restraining the collection of taxes, illegal in whole or in part.
Neither will the constitutionality of the statute, if that be conceded, avail to oust the Federal court of jurisdiction. A valid law may be wrongfully administered by officers of the State, and so as to make such administration an illegal burden and exaction upon the individual. A tax law, as it leaves the legislative hands, may not be obnoxious to any challenge, and yet the officers charged with the administration of that valid tax law may so act under it in the matter of assessment, or
Opinion of the Court.
collection as to work an illegal trespass upon the property rights of the individual. They may go beyond the powers thereby conferred, and when they do so the fact that they are assuming to act under a valid law will not oust the courts of jurisdiction to restrain their excessive and illegal acts. In Cunningham v. Macon & Brunswick Railroad, 109 U. S. 446, 452, it was said:
"Another class of cases is where an individual is sued in tort for some act injurious to another in regard to person or property, to which his defence is that he has acted under the orders of the government.
"In these cases he is not sued as, or because he is, the officer of the government, but as an individual, and the court is not ousted of jurisdiction because he asserts authority as such officer. To make out his defence he must show that his authority was sufficient in law to protect him. See Mitchell v. Harmony, 13 How. 115; Bates v. Clark, 95 U. S. 204; Meigs v. McClung, 9 Cranch, 11; Wilcox v. Jackson, 13 Pet. 498; Brown v. Huger, 21 How. 305; Grisar v. McDowell, 6 Wall, 363."
Nor can it be said in such a case that relief is obtainable only in the courts of the State. For it may be laid down as a general proposition that, whenever a citizen of a State can go into the courts of a State to defend his property against the illegal acts of its officers, a citizen of another State may invoke the jurisdiction of the Federal courts to maintain a like defence. A State cannot tie up a citizen of another State, having property rights within its territory invaded by unauthorized acts of its own officers, to suits for redress in its own courts. Given a case where a suit can be maintained in the courts of the State to protect property rights, a citizen of another State may invoke the jurisdiction of the Federal courts. Cowles v. Mercer County, 7 Wall. 118; Lincoln County v. Luning, 133 U. S. 529; Chicot County v. Sherwood, 148 U. S. 529.
We need not, however, rest on the general powers of a Federal court in this respect, for in the act before us express authority is given for a suit against the commission to accom
Opinion of the Court.
plish that which was the specific object of the present suit. Section 6 provides that any dissatisfied "railroad company, or other party at interest, may file a petition" "in a court of competent jurisdiction in Travis County, Texas, against said commission as defendant." The language of this provision is significant. It does not name the court in which the suit may be brought. It is not a court of Travis County, but in Travis County. The language differing from that which ordinarily I would be used to describe a court of the State was selected apparently in order to avoid the objection of an attempt to prevent the jurisdiction of the Federal courts. The Circuit Court for the Western District of Texas is "a court of competent jurisdiction in Travis County." Not only is Travis County within the territorial limits of its jurisdiction, but also Austin, in that county, is one of the places at which the court is held. Act of June 3, 1884, c. 64, 23 Stat. 35. It comes, therefore, within the very terms of the act. It cannot be doubted that a State, like any other government, can waive exemption from suit. Were this in terms a suit against the State, if by express statute the State had waived its exemption and consented that suit might be brought against it by name in any court of competent jurisdiction in Travis County, it might well be argued that thereby it consented to a suit, brought by a citizen of another State, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Texas, sitting in Travis County, on the ground that the limitations of the Eleventh Amendment to the Federal Constitution simply create a personal privilege which can at any time be waived by the State. However, it is unnecessary to go so far as that, for this cannot, for the reasons heretofore indicated, in any fair sense be considered a suit against the State.
Still another matter is worthy of note in this direction. In the famous Dartmouth College case, 4 Wheat. 518, it was held that the charter of a corporation is a contract protected by that clause of the National Constitution, which prohibits a State from passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts. The International and Great Northwestern Railroad Company is a corporation created by the State of Texas. The