Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation

PETITIONER: Hess et al.
RESPONDENT: Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation
LOCATION: Riley Hospital for Children

DOCKET NO.: 93-1197
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 513 US 30 (1994)
ARGUED: Oct 03, 1994
DECIDED: Nov 14, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Hugh H. Welsh - on behalf of the Respondent
Lawrence A. Katz - for petitioners
Lawrence Allen Katz - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 03, 1994 in Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 14, 1994 in Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in number 93-1197, Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation will be announced by Justice Ginsburg.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Locomotive engineer Albert Hess and train conductor Charles Walsh were injured while working on the railroad of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, an interstate commuter line commonly known as PATH.

PATH parent company is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an entity the two states established with the consent of congress pursuant to the Constitution's Interstate Compact Clause.

Seeking to a cover for their injuries Hess and Walsh sued PATH in Federal Court under a federal law governing the liability of railroads to their workers’.

The court below the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected both complaints on the ground that the Eleventh Amendment to the constitution shelter PATH and the Port Authority from suit in Federal Court.

We granted review to resolve a conflict between the Second and Third Circuits on the question whether the Port Authority qualifies as a state agency eligible for Eleventh Amendment protection.

In today’s decision we hold that the Port Authority does not qualify for Eleventh Amendment immunity and we therefore reverse the judgment of the Third Circuit created by constitutional compact among three sovereigns, New York, New Jersey and the United States.

The Port Authority is financially self sufficient, it generates its own revenues and it pays its own debts.

Suit in Federal Court against this entity and the judgment of the Courts majority does not touch the concerns the state’s financial solvency and dignity that underpin the Eleventh Amendment.

Justice Stevens who joins a courts opinion has also filed a concurring opinion.

Justice O’Connor has filed a dissenting opinion joined by the Chief Justice, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.