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To abrogate is to formally annul or repeal a law through an act of legislation, constitutional authority, or custom. For example, the Supreme Court of Michigan explained in Ferency v. Secretary of State that “an existing constitutional provision is altered or abrogated if proposed amendment would add to, delete from or change existing wording of provision, or would render it fully inoperative.” 

In constitutional law, the abrogation doctrine refers to the power of Congress to revoke a state’s sovereign immunity and authorize lawsuits against that state. In Seminole Tribe v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity under Article One of the Constitution. Congress can, however, authorize lawsuits seeking monetary damages against individual states when it acts pursuant to power delegated to it by the amendments following the Eleventh Amendment, which is mostly pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment.  

In contract and insurance law, to abrogate is to rescind or terminate a contract. For example, the Supreme Court of Nebraska in Johnson Lakes Development, Inc. v. Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation Dist. explained that “when used in reference to a contract, the terms ‘abrogate,’ ‘annul,’ and ‘cancel’ mean to rescind the contract and thereby nullify its existence.”

[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]