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ArtIII.S2.C1.15.1 Overview of Cases to Which the United States is a Party

Article III, Section 2, Clause 1:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State,—between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

Article III authorizes federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over “Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party.” 1 While the Constitution does not explicitly authorize the federal government to bring suits, since the early years of the Republic, the Supreme Court and Congress have accepted that the United States can both sue and be sued, subject to certain legal limits.2 The following essays discuss constitutional issues that may arise when the United States files suit as a plaintiff,3 including suits by the federal government against the states.4 The essays then briefly explore legal questions related to suits where the United States or a federal entity is a defendant.5

Footnotes
1
U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. back
2
See, e.g., Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73; Dugan v. United States, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 172 (1818). back
3
See ArtIII.S2.C1.15.2 Right of the United States to Sue. back
4
See ArtIII.S2.C1.15.3 Suits Against States. back
5
See ArtIII.S2.C1.15.4 Suits Against the United States. back