specifically, when I became a member of the
Stetson Law Review
, I pub-
lished an article about sovereign immunity called:
Municipal Immunity: A
Historical and Modern Perspective
Upon graduation, I worked with sev-
eral municipalities where the concept of sovereign immunity was alive and
well—albeit confusing and in a state of flux. Even though that was over
twenty years ago, not much has changed in sovereign immunity jurispru-
dence, and this article will focus on the beginning and the current status of
sovereign immunity. It is written with utmost gratitude to my professor and
now colleague, Bob Bickel.
II. History of Sovereign Immunity
The concept of sovereign immunity dates back to medieval England’s com-
mon law theory that one could not sue the King in the King’s own courts
In the thirteenth century, when it became possible to sue the Crown, one
could petition for royal justice, requesting the King to consent to be sued,
but such requests would come before a tribunal over which the King himself
presided. Over the next few centuries, bringing a case against an individ-
ual in common law courts, such as Common Pleas, King’s Bench, and the
2 Stephanie A. Vaughan,
Municipal Immunity: A Historical and Modern Perspective
3 See E.C. Y
, M
141 (1957 & Cumulative Supp. 1989).
The doctrine of sovereign immunity was established in
Russell v. Men of Devon
, 100
Eng. Rep. 359 (K.B., 1789), in which the court reasoned that (1) actions against po-
litical subdivisions would cause an overabundance of suits, (2) there was no fund to
satisfy the debt, and (3) it would be better for an individual to sustain an injury than
have the public suffer.
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