The Outcome of This Obscure Lawsuit Could Undermine Constitutional Government

curious case about to be decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia could have profound implications for constitutional government in the United States.

In 2012, the state legislature passed a so-called “fetal pain law,” which bans abortions after 20 weeks and grants district attorneys access to patients’ medical records. Three doctors promptly filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the law violates individuals’ privacy rights under the state constitution. Claiming “sovereign immunity” from litigation, officials in the state argued that its legislature cannot be sued by citizens who claim they have been harmed by its unconstitutional laws.

The case—Lathrop v. Deal—has taken five years to wind through the Georgia court system. In the process it has created some unlikely alliances among special interest groups—including a pro-gun group and human rights organizations—and sparked an intense debate about state immunity from citizens’ lawsuits.

According to one lawyer involved in the case, if the court sides with the state, the Bill of Rights will be subservient to the whims of the Georgia legislature.

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