260
STEPHANIE A. VAUGHAN
Exchequer, or a court of equity, became less of a King’s concern, and more
of a ministerial function handled by the Chancery
.
4
However, because the courts were inferior to the King and could not hear
claims against him as a routine matter, suits against the crown were always
“respectful requests for royal aid” directed to the King himself. The petitions
of right claimed the petitioner was injured by the Crown, and would have
had a legal claim, had the defendant been a private individual. Such peti-
tions were usually endorsed, and suits against the Crown were unremark-
able. In fact, the phrase commonly used to explain the concept of sovereign
immunity, “The King can do no wrong,” did not mean the King was immune
from lawsuits; it meant the King “was incapable of being a party to injustice,”
and therefore consented to suits when a subject was harmed
.
5
III. Sovereign Immunity in the United States
The concept of sovereign immunity traversed the ocean and became part of
the United States’ law. Generally, in the United States, sovereign immunity
exempts the federal, state, and local government from liability for wrongs
committed against individuals, even though it contradicts traditional tort law
principles that assign liability for an individual’s negligence and afford re-
dress to an injured party
.
6
It thus became effectively a doctrine of
municipal
4 Paul F. Figley & Jay Tidmarsh,
The Appropriations Power and Sovereign Immunity
,
.
5
Id.
at 1212–13
.
6 See E.C. Y
OKLEY
, M
UNICIPAL
C
ORPORATIONS
141 (1957 & Cumulative Supp. 1989);
W
ILLIAM
L. P
ROSSER
& W. P
AGE
K
EETON
,
P
K
T
1032
(5th ed., 1984).
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