Article III, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution says

In all Cases...in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.

I would interpret this as meaning that when a state is the plaintiff, the Supreme Court should have original jurisdiction regardless of who the defendant is. But this is not the case — to give a recent example, in Trump v. Hawaii, Hawaii filed suit in a district court. Why do lawsuits by states not invoke original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?

This is not a duplicate of this question, which concerns lawsuits between parties that are explicitly stated as not having original jurisdiction. It does not address the question of a state as a plaintiff.

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    The Supreme Court recently declined to take an original-jurisdiction lawsuit by a state against non-state parties: Arizona v. Sackler, 151-Orig
    – Purple P
    Dec 12, 2019 at 2:50

1 Answer 1


That section of the Constitution says that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction when a state is a party to a case. It does not say that the Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction, and Congress has given lower courts jurisdiction over some of those cases since the Judiciary Act of 1789. The courts have upheld this concurrent jurisdiction. The only situation where Congress has given exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court is lawsuits between two states.

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    Also exclusive jurisdiction "between a state and the United States". The fact that Hawaii sued Trump and not the US made a difference.
    – Fizz
    Oct 25, 2019 at 20:51
  • @Fizz That was true in 1789; it is no longer true.
    – cpast
    Oct 25, 2019 at 23:32
  • What law changed that?
    – Fizz
    Oct 25, 2019 at 23:36
  • Exactly right +1
    – user9790
    Oct 26, 2019 at 3:29
  • 1
    @Fizz I don’t know when it changed, but it changed at some point.
    – cpast
    Oct 26, 2019 at 18:19

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