Can congress be sued by a presidential candidate campaigning during an election year? Can suing congress be part of a candidate's political platform?

  • 12
    Can suing congress be part of a candidate's political platform? Trivially yes. The president can campaign on almost whatever promises he wants to make, even if he can't actually keep them. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:17
  • 4
    Depending of the legislation. What country are you talking about?
    – nelruk
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:57
  • 2
    One can sue the United States in cases where the Congress has waived sovereign immunity. But the judiciary is unlikely to accept a suit against congress as such. Do you have some particular cause of action in mind?
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:08
  • 2
    Do you mean suing Congress as a body or individual congresscritters? If the former, there are new doctrines under some trade deals that a country can be sued if a legislation affects your business negatively. If the latter, as was noted above, there's sovereign immunity.
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:35
  • 2
    The answers seem to assume United States, so I added the tag. But in the future please keep in mind that this is an international community. We don't just discuss US politics here.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 8:40

3 Answers 3



Sovereign Immunity.

As a general matter, governments in the U.S. (federal, state, municipal and tribal) enjoy what is called Sovereign Immunity. It means they can not be sued (except under specific conditions that amount to waivers).

As a legal principle, this is extended from British common law and is called rex non potest peccare which means,

the king can do no wrong.

This is the same principle responsible for the fact that the Queen of England does not need a passport to travel abroad. She is the passport.

That said, however, individual members of congress can be sued for their actions as individuals while in office. But the entire government or branch of thereof can not.

  • Individual members of Congress cannot be sued for their legislative actions; the Constitution explicitly gives them immunity from any form of punishment (whether civil, criminal, or administrative) for any legislative action with two exceptions: being voted out of office, and being punished by their own House.
    – cpast
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 13:30
  • 2
    There is also the question of whether Congress can be a party. It's not a natural person, it's not a corporation, it's not a government. Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:02
  • Sovereign immunity is waived in many cases. Does that mean that congress can be sued in those cases? No, it does not. Therefore, sovereign immunity does not explain why congress cannot be sued.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 6:34

In general, you cannot sue your government due to a common-law practice known as sovereign immunity.

However, some governments have passed laws that allow lawsuits to proceed against them in narrowly defined areas. In the United States, for example, there is the Federal Tort Claims Act, which states:

The United States shall be liable, respecting the provisions of this title relating to tort claims, in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances, but shall not be liable for interest prior to judgment or for punitive damages.

If, however, in any case wherein death was caused, the law of the place where the act or omission complained of occurred provides, or has been construed to provide, for damages only punitive in nature, the United States shall be liable for actual or compensatory damages, measured by the pecuniary injuries resulting from such death to the persons respectively, for whose benefit the action was brought, in lieu thereof.

With respect to any claim under this chapter, the United States shall be entitled to assert any defense based upon judicial or legislative immunity which otherwise would have been available to the employee of the United States whose act or omission gave rise to the claim, as well as any other defenses to which the United States is entitled.

  • 5
    It might be worth pointing out that the FTCA is about suing the United States as a whole, not a specific legislative organ of it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 8:41

States, which are also sovereigns, may sue the Federal Government.


3 U.S. Code § 15 (Counting electoral votes in Congress) is almost certainly unconstitutional, and it makes sense for California, New York, Texas, and Florida to seek an injunction to force Congress to correct the constitutional flaw.

My essay entitled "Is the current US presidential election process constitutional? No. Can this process be fixed? Yes." explains the unconstitutionality of 3 U.S. Code § 15.

  • The question is not asking about suing the federal government but about suing congress.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 14:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .