Larson v. Domestic and Foreign Commerce Corporation 337 U.S. 682 (1949)

Author:Theodore Eisenberg

Page 1562

This is a leading decision concerning the SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY of the United States. Plaintiff sued the head of the War Assets Administration (WAA), alleging that the Administrator had sold certain surplus coal to plaintiff, had refused to deliver the coal, and had entered into a contract to sell the coal to others. Because plaintiff sought injunctive relief against WAA officials, ordering them not to sell the coal or to deliver it to anyone other than plaintiff, and because the suit concerned property of the United States, the Supreme Court found the suit to be one against the United States and, therefore, to be barred by sovereign immunity. The Court distinguished Larson from suits against officers for acts beyond their statutory powers and from suits seeking to enjoin allegedly unconstitutional behavior, both of which the Court stated would not constitute suits against the sovereign, even if the plaintiff alleges the officer acted unconstitutionally or beyond his statutory powers, "if the relief requested cannot be granted merely by ordering the cessation of the conduct complained of but will require affirmative action by the sovereign or the disposition of unquestionably sovereign property." In cases involving suits against state officials, part of this passage...

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