Eleventh Amendment Immunity in the Eleventh Circuit

Author: Brynn Stylinski, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

In Pellitteri v. Prine, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that a Georgia sheriff, in hiring and firing deputies, acts as an arm of the state and is therefore entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.[1] The plaintiff in Pellitteri was a former sheriff’s deputy who had injured her knee on the job. She requested to be put on temporary light duty, a regularly granted accommodation for those injured on the job, but her request was denied and she was later terminated by Sheriff Prine.[2] She brought a discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sheriff Prine filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that that the § 1983 and ADA claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment because he was acting in his official capacity; the district court denied the motion.[3] The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s denial and dismissed the claims, holding that the sheriff was acting as an arm of the state when he terminated the plaintiff and was thus immune from suit.[4]

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