Article III, Section 2, Clause 1:
The Judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
Pursuant to the general rule that a sovereign cannot be sued in its own courts, the judicial power does not extend to suits against the United States unless Congress by statute consents to such suits. This rule first emanated in embryonic form in an obiter dictum by Chief Justice Jay in Chisholm v. Georgia, where he indicated that a suit would not lie against the United States because "there is no power which the courts can call to their aid." 1 In Cohens v. Virginia, 2 also in dictum, Chief Justice Marshall asserted, "the universally received opinion is that no suit can be commenced or prosecuted against the United States." The issue was more directly in question in United States v. Clarke, 3 where Chief Justice Marshall stated that, as the United States is "not suable of common right, the party who institutes such suit must bring his case within the authority of some act of Congress, or the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over it." He thereupon ruled that the act of May 26, 1830, for the final settlement of land claims in Florida condoned the suit. The doctrine of the exemption of the United States from suit was repeated in various subsequent cases, without discussion or examination. 4 Indeed, it was not until United States v. Lee 5 that the Court examined the rule and the reasons for it, and limited its application accordingly.
Because suits against the United States can be maintained only by congressional consent, it follows that they can be brought only in the manner prescribed by Congress and subject to the restrictions imposed. 6 As only Congress may waive the immunity of the United States from liability, officers of the United States are powerless either to waive such immunity or to confer jurisdiction on a federal court. 7 Even when authorized, suits may be brought only in designated courts, 8 and this rule applies equally to suits by states against the United States. 9 Congress may also grant or withhold immunity from suit on behalf of government corporations. 10