Quern v. Jordan
Annotate this Case
440 U.S. 332 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979)
Quern v. Jordan
Argued November 8, 1978
Decided March 5, 1979
440 U.S. 332
In Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U. S. 651, it was held that retroactive welfare benefits awarded by a Federal District Court to the plaintiff class, by reason of wrongful denial of benefits by Illinois officials prior to the entry of the court's order determining the wrongfulness of their actions, violated the Eleventh Amendment, and that in, an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
"a federal court's remedial power, consistent with the Eleventh Amendment, is necessarily limited to prospective injunctive relief . . . , and may not include a retroactive award which requires the payment of funds from the state treasury."
Edelman, supra at 415 U. S. 677. On remand, the District Court ordered the state officials to send to each member of the plaintiff class a notice informing him that he was denied public assistance to which he was entitled, together with a "Notice of Appeal" by which the recipient could request a hearing on the denial of benefits. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the proposed form of notice would have been barred by the Eleventh Amendment, but stated that, on remand, the District Court could order the state officials to send a "mere explanatory notice to applicants advising them that there is a state administrative procedure available if they desire to have the state determine whether or not they may be eligible for past benefits," and that a returnable notice of appeal could also be provided.
1. Neither Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U. S. 658, the legislative history cited in that decision, nor this Court's Eleventh Amendment cases subsequent to Edelman cast any doubt on Edelman's holding that § 1983 does not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the States. Section 1983 does not explicitly and by clear language indicate on its face an intent to sweep away the immunity of the States; nor does it have a history which focuses directly on the question of state liability or shows that Congress considered and firmly decided to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the States. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U. S. 678, distinguished. Nor does this Court's reaffirmance of Edelman in this case render § 1983 meaningless insofar as States are concerned. Pp. 440 U. S. 338-345
2. The modified notice contemplated by the Court of Appeals constitutes permissible prospective relief, and not a "retroactive award which requires payment of funds from the state treasury." Such notice, in effect, simply informs plaintiff class members that there are existing administrative procedures by which they may receive a determination of eligibility for past benefits, that their federal suit is at an end, and that the federal court can provide them with no further relief. Whether a recipient of the notice decides to take advantage of the available procedures is left completely to the discretion of that particular class member, the federal court playing no role in that decision. And whether or not the class member will receive retroactive benefits rests entirely with the State, its agencies, courts, and legislature, not with the federal court. Pp. 440 U. S. 346-349.
563 F.2d 873, affirmed.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in Parts I, II, and III of which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 440 U. S. 349. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 440 U. S. 366.