In South Dakota, a railroad was held liable for double damages if it did not offer payment within 60 days after receiving a claim. This law denied carriers due process of law and deprived them of property. Ultimately, this law was unconstitutional because it caused great financial and emotional hardship to thousands of people.
Unconstitutional laws are laws that violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court and Congress play an important role in keeping laws that violate the Constitution in check. If the president or Congress is partisan, they can encourage their colleagues to write laws that violate the Constitution. The courts will then decide whether these laws are constitutional. Similar mechanisms exist in state governments. The best way to stop these unconstitutional laws is to avoid electing partisan politicians and instead vote for candidates who believe in free competition and accountability.
Unconstitutional laws may be unconstitutional despite their good intentions. Even if the public officials enact these laws with the best of intentions, they could still be held personally liable for their actions. Even if the law is passed through the legislative process, this doesn’t mean the lawmakers are protected.
To avoid unconstitutional laws, citizens can litigate to get them lifted. They can do so by arguing that the underlying statute is unconstitutional. They can also invoke the Charter to defend themselves against civil cases.
State government immunity from liability for unconstitutional laws
State government immunity from liability for unconstitutionally passed laws is a common law tradition, informed by the doctrine of state sovereign immunity. This doctrine shields local governments from constitutional liability, although plaintiffs must satisfy a specific causation requirement to win the case. In addition to a showing of intentional misconduct, a plaintiff must also show that the government acted with a disregard for constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court has addressed the limits of state immunity in numerous cases, which has resulted in new restrictions and lessening of existing ones. This is an ongoing area of judicial controversy. In particular, the Eleventh Amendment restricts state immunity. However, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar federal lawsuits against state governments.
If a state law is unconstitutional, a protester may bring a declaratory judgment suit. This action requires standing, and can be filed either in state or federal court.
Impact of unconstitutional laws on large numbers of people
Unconstitutional laws imposed by the federal government can have a disproportionate impact on the lives of large numbers of people. For example, the 1970 Voting Rights Act Amendments mandated a minimum voting age of 18 years old for local and state elections. This provision was found unconstitutional because it exceeded Congress’ powers to regulate voting. The three Justices in the majority, Harlan, Blackmun, and Burger, concurred.
Impediments to recovering damages from defendants
There are several legal obstacles that may prevent you from suing for damages against defendants under an unconstitutional law. The first is sovereign immunity, which does not apply to government officials who enforce unconstitutional laws. As a result, you can sue them as an individual, not as an agent of the state.
In order to make your case stand, you need to prove that the law was unconstitutional and that the defendants were likely to violate it. If you are a Ku Klux Klan member, for example, your claim could be successful if the mayor had arrested you and did not prosecute you.