No. 04-885, Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, affirmed 5-4, in an opinion written by Justice Stevens, declining to apply the Seminole Tribe sovereign immunity doctrine to claims brought under the Bankruptcy Clause. Justice Thomas dissented, joined by the Chief Justice and by Justices Scalia and Kennedy. Interestingly, if this decision had not been ready to be issued today, the case might well have been held over for reargument. It's the first decision of the Term in which Justice O'Connor cast the deciding vote and in which Justice Alito would likely have come out the other way.Very interesting. I'll read the case and have more later.
UPDATE: Here's a lucid explanation of the issues in the case. I will not burden you with detail on the difficult sovereign immunity case law. But I will express my exasperation with this case. The majority is made up of Justice O'Connor and four Justices who have shown very little regard for sovereign immunity. All four have been adamantly opposed to Seminole Tribe, the case that held Congress lacked the power to abrogate state sovereign immunity using the commerce power. And Justice Stevens, who writes the new majority opinion, was among the four Justices who back in the 1980s voted repeatedly to overrule Hans v. Lousiana, a change that would have eradicated sovereign immunity in any case based on federal law, regardless of whether Congress had acted to abrogate that immunity. So O'Connor was the only Justice in today's majority who has taken sovereign immunity seriously in the past, as have all the members of today's dissent (Justice Thomas, who wrote the opinion, and the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Kennedy). Why did O'Connor join the Justices she's disagreed with in the past? Her vote is mute, as she wrote no concurring opinion. It reminds me of Justice White's failure to explain his position back in Union Gas. Though he had in other cases voted along with the four Justices who supported Hans throughout the 1980s, he joined the Hans opponents to hold that Congress had the power to abrogate sovereign immunity using the commerce power. He wrote a concurring opinion, but only said that he didn't agree with much of the majority's reasoning. Union Gas was thus left in a weak state, and it was Union Gas that the Court overruled in Seminole Tribe.