Is a class-action suit considered to be a private suit?

In Alden v. Maine, the Supreme Court ruled that because of a state's sovereign immunity a private suit cannot be take up against it in it own courts. Under this logic can a class action suit be brought against a state?


In addition, what would be the fewest number of plaintiffs necessary to file a class action lawsuit? And can an inclusive group, such as an indian tribe file a class action lawsuit under the vise of the tribe, rather than the collection of individuals?

3 Answers

  • Ben
    Lv 7
    10 years ago
    Favorite Answer


  • 10 years ago

    No. You can only sue a state for injunctive relief, not for monetary relief. So if this suit was asking for money damages, it would be dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds. (See the 11th Amendment) You can sue local governments like the city and county, and you can also sue individual state actors if they are directly liable, but you cannot sue the state, unless the state waived their rights. But that would be unlikely. The reason this law exists is because the feds cannot usurp a state's treasury and force a state to pay someone for a law suit out of state treasury funds.

    EDIT: There is one other exception I forgot to mention, and that is if the action is brought on Establishment Clause grounds. If the state is using tax payer money to fund something religious, or is entangling themselves with religion so much that it would rise to the level of an establishment of religion, that is the one big exception. But was the case you cited about that? If not, then it would probably be dismissed.

    And if it was not asking for a monetary settlement, but a suit to prevent some kind of constitutional infringement on people's rights, then it can be brought, but there has to be an actual harm done that similarly affects all members of the class and it would have to be asking for a remedy that a court could redress. If the court cannot redress the harms, then it would dismiss it based on a lack of standing.

    As for your main question, all suits are public because they are public record. So what do you mean by "private suit"? Or I guess I mean, what did the court mean. Because I would assume you just mean a civil suit as opposed to a criminal suit?? All class action suits are civil suits. You cannot have a criminal class-action suit. The only time you have a criminal suit is if somebody committed a crime and is being prosecuted for it by the state. They don't do that in a class action style. They can consolidate cases if it would not prejudice any of the defendants but the defendant can ask for it to be bifurcated and have their case heard separately.

  • 10 years ago

    Only in Federal court.

    Source(s): Common sense
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