William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


The Eleventh Amendment prohibits citizens from bringing actions in law or equity against individual states in federal courts. The Amendment does not address whether states are subject to federal jurisdiction for actions in admiralty in which both a shipwreck salvor and a state claim title to a shipwreck Analyzing applicable admiralty, federal, and common law in the context of Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence, this Note examines whether the states are subject to pure admiralty actions in federal court by citizen-salvors seeking either title to or reward for salvaging a shipwreck. The original intentions of admiralty law: rewarding salvors for their efforts, uniformity, and encouraging the recovery and preservation of shipwrecked property, are considered in answering this jurisdictional question. The Eleventh Amendment remains afloat to protect states from some admiralty actions, but there are circumstances in which federal courts should have jurisdiction over citizens and states competing for claim to shipwrecks.