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Ex parte Young

United States Supreme Court
209 U.S. 123 (1908)



The State of Minnesota enacted legislation regulating railroad rates. If a railroad company charged rates in excess of the approved amount, its officers and employees were subject to misdemeanor or felony convictions, fines, and potentially lengthy jail sentences. The shareholders of multiple railroad companies (plaintiffs) brought suit in federal circuit court, alleging that the law violated the due process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs sued the railroad companies to prevent them from complying with the legislation. The action also sought an injunction against the attorney general of Minnesota, Edward Young (defendant), to prevent him from enforcing the legislation. Young filed a motion to dismiss based on the Eleventh Amendment prohibition against private actions against states. The circuit court dismissed Young’s motion and entered a preliminary injunction to prevent Young from enforcing the law. Young then filed a state court action to enforce the legislation against the railroads. The circuit court held Young in contempt, and he filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus and certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Peckham, J.)

Dissent (Harlan, J.)

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