Supreme Court Finds States Immune from FMC Action

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
In a sharply divided decision (5-4), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the concept of sovereign immunity protects states from having to answer private complaints before the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). In the instant case, a cruise line filed a complaint with the FMC against the South Carolina State Ports Authority alleging that the Authority violated the Shipping Act of 1984 when it refused berthing space and passenger services to the cruise line. The court held that state sovereign immunity bars the FMC from adjudicating a private party's complaint against a nonconsenting state. Among other things, the Court rejected the argument that the need for uniformity in maritime commerce regulation required limitation of state sovereignty. Dissenting opinions were filed by Justices Stevens and Breyer. Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority. Source: HK Law

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