Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 23, 2022
  • Case #: 20-603
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, GORSUCH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

States may not invoke sovereign immunity as a legal defense to USERRA suits.

Petitioner was exposed to toxic burns while on active duty in the army and after being discharged, he was unable to perform his previous job as a state trooper. Petitioner asked Respondent to employ him in a different role, but Respondent refused. Petitioner sued, arguing Respondent violated USERRA's mandate that state employers rehire returning service members and use “reasonable efforts to accommodate service-related disabilities”. Respondent moved to dismiss claiming sovereign immunity, but the trial court denied motion. However, the intermediate court reversed reasoning that Congress cannot authorize private suits against nonconsenting states under its Article 1 power. The Court granted review to decide whether states may invoke sovereign immunity as a legal defense in private suits against nonconsenting states. The Court reasoned that upon entering the Union, the States agreed that their sovereignty would yield as part of the plan of the Convention, States waived their sovereign immunity under Congress's Article 1 power to raise and support armies. Therefore, States cannot utilize sovereign immunity as a legal defense in USERRA suits as sovereign immunity has been waived.  REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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