Quern v. Jordan

LOCATION:U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 77-841
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 440 US 332 (1979)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1978
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1979

Sheldon Roodman – for respondent
William Wenzel
William A. Wenzel, III – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Quern v. Jordan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 08, 1978 in Quern v. Jordan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 05, 1979 in Quern v. Jordan

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 841, Quern against Jordan and 1177, Scott against Illinois will each be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

In Quern against Jordan which is a sequel to Edelman against Jordan which we decided five terms ago, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sitting in Chicago after our remand in the Edelman case ordered state officials to send to each member of the plaintiff, class, and notice informing them that he had been denied public assistance to which he was entitled.

The state appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and that Court sitting en banc reversed the District Court’s order on the ground that that form of notice was barred by the Eleventh Amendment because it purported to decide that Illinois public funds should be used to satisfy the claims of the plaintiffs without the consent of the state.

However, the Court of Appeals stated that on the remand, the District Court could order the state officials to send an explanatory notice as that court put it to plaintiff class members advising them that there is a state administrative procedure available if they wish to have the state determine whether or not they may be eligible for past benefits.

And today we affirm that judgment of the Seventh Circuit.

We first reject respondent’s suggestion that our decision in Edelman has been eviscerated by later decisions.

None of the later decisions relied upon, justifies a conclusion different from that which we reached in Edelman.

Section 1983 does not explicitly and by clear language indicate on its face an intent to sweep away the traditional immunity of the states nor does it have a legislative history that focuses directly on the question of state liability or shows that Congress considered and decided to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the states.

We therefore conclude that Congress did not intend by the general language of Section 1983 to override that immunity.

Turning to the question whether the proposed notice of the Court of Appeals violates the Eleventh Amendment, we find that the notice is ancillary to prospective relief which is permissible under the decision in Ex parte Young and Edelman and not a retroactive award that requires payment of funds from the state treasury which we held was invalid under the Eleventh Amendment in Edelman.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in the judgments in Part I, II, and III of which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.

Mr. Justice Marshall has also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.