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Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.
immunity and to insist upon responding to these claims in its own courts, which are open to hear and determine the case.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed in part, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA and JUSTICE THOMAS join, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho seeks declaratory and injunctive relief precluding Idaho officials from regulating or interfering with its possession of submerged lands beneath Lake Coeur d'Alene. Invoking the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123 (1908), the Tribe argues that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar it from pursuing its claims against state officials in federal court. I agree with the Court that the Tribe's claim cannot go forward in federal court.
In Young, the Court held that a federal court has jurisdiction over a suit against a state officer to enjoin official actions that violate federal law, even if the State itself is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. The Young doctrine recognizes that if a state official violates federal law, he is stripped of his official or representative character and may be personally liable for his conduct; the State cannot cloak the officer in its sovereign immunity. Id., at 159–160. Where a plaintiff seeks prospective relief to end a state officer's ongoing violation of federal law, such a claim can ordinarily proceed in federal court. Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U. S. 267, 289–290 (1977). The doctrine is not, however, without limitations. A federal court cannot award retrospective relief, designed to remedy past violations of federal law. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U. S. 651, 668 (1974); Green v. Mansour, 474 U. S. 64, 68–69 (1985).
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This case is unlike a typical Young action in two important respects. First, as the Tribe concedes, the suit is the functional equivalent of an action to quiet its title to the bed of Lake Coeur d'Alene. It asks a federal court to declare that the lands are for the exclusive use, occupancy, and enjoyment of the Tribe and to invalidate all statutes and ordinances purporting to regulate the lands. The Tribe could not maintain a quiet title action in federal court without the State's consent, and for good reason: A federal court cannot summon a State before it in a private action seeking to divest the State of a property interest. Florida Dept. of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U. S. 670, 699–700 (1982) (plurality opinion); see Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury of Ind., 323 U. S. 459, 464 (1945). Second, the Tribe does not merely seek to possess land that would otherwise remain subject to state regulation, or to bring the State's regulatory scheme into compliance with federal law. Rather, the Tribe seeks to eliminate altogether the State's regulatory power over the submerged lands at issue—to establish not only that the State has no right to possess the property, but also that the property is not within Idaho's sovereign jurisdiction at all. We have repeatedly emphasized the importance of submerged lands to state sovereignty. Control of such lands is critical to a State's ability to regulate use of its navigable waters. Utah Div. of State Lands v. United States, 482 U. S. 193, 195 (1987).
The Tribe's claim to federal jurisdiction rests heavily on cases that, in my view, do not control here. The first is Treasure Salvors, in which a plurality concluded that a federal court could issue a warrant commanding Florida officials to release certain artifacts because the suit was not, in effect, a suit against the State. But the fact that the suit was permitted to proceed in Treasure Salvors does not advance our inquiry. The plurality's conclusion that the suit was not against the State was based on its view that state officials lacked any colorable basis under state law for claiming right
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ful possession of the artifacts. 458 U. S., at 692–697. Put another way, the plurality in Treasure Salvors would have permitted the suit to proceed not because the plaintiff's claim of title arguably rested on federal law, see post, at 311 (SOUTER, J., dissenting), but because state officials were acting beyond the authority conferred on them by the State, quite apart from whether their conduct also violated federal law. Because the Tribe does not pursue such a theory, Treasure Salvors provides little guidance here. In addition, whether or not the Court's ultimate holding in Treasure Salvors that the suit should proceed remains sound on the theory that the plaintiff identified a federal law basis for its claim of title, see post, at 307, n. 9 (SOUTER, J., dissenting), the only reasoning explicitly offered by the Treasure Salvors plurality was narrowed by our subsequent decision in Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U. S. 89, 106 (1984) (plaintiff cannot invoke Young doctrine based solely on alleged violation of state law); see 465 U. S., at 114, n. 25.
Second, the Tribe invokes a series of cases in which plaintiffs successfully pursued in federal court claims that federal and state officials wrongfully possessed certain real property. See, e. g., United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196 (1882); Tindal v. Wesley, 167 U. S. 204 (1897). In both Lee and Tindal, the Court made clear that the suits could proceed against the officials because no judgment would bind the State. It was possible, the Court found, to distinguish between possession of the property and title to the property. See Lee, supra, at 222; Tindal, supra, at 223–224. A court could find that the officials had no right to remain in possession, thus conveying all the incidents of ownership to the plaintiff, while not formally divesting the State of its title. As noted, however, this case does not concern ownership and possession of an ordinary parcel of real property. When state officials are found to have no right to possess a disputed parcel of land, the State nevertheless retains its authority to
Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.
regulate uses of the land. Here, the Tribe seeks a declaration not only that the State does not own the bed of Lake Coeur d'Alene, but also that the lands are not within the State's sovereign jurisdiction. Whatever distinction can be drawn between possession and ownership of real property in other contexts, it is not possible to make such a distinction for submerged lands. For this reason, Lee, Tindal, and analogous cases do not control here. In my view, because a ruling in the Tribe's favor, in practical effect, would be indistinguishable from an order granting the Tribe title to submerged lands, the Young exception to the Eleventh Amendment's bar is not properly invoked here.
While I therefore agree that the Tribe's suit must be dismissed, I believe that the principal opinion is flawed in several respects. In concluding that the Tribe's suit cannot proceed, the principal opinion reasons that federal courts determining whether to exercise jurisdiction over any suit against a state officer must engage in a case-specific analysis of a number of concerns, including whether a state forum is available to hear the dispute, what particular federal right the suit implicates, and whether "special factors counse hesitation” in the exercise of jurisdiction. Ante, at 274, 275, 278–280 (internal quotation marks omitted). This approach unnecessarily recharacterizes and narrows much of our Young jurisprudence. The parties have not briefed whether such a shift in the Young doctrine is warranted. In my view, it is not.
The principal opinion begins by examining this Court's early Young cases and concludes that the Court found the exercise of federal jurisdiction proper in those cases principally because no state forum was available to vindicate a plaintiff's claim that state officers were violating federal law. Ante, at 270–274. But the principal opinion cites not a single case in which the Court expressly relied on the absence of an available state forum as a rationale for applying Young. Instead, the principal opinion invokes language in
Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.
the Court's opinions suggesting that the plaintiff could not secure an adequate remedy at law in a state forum. See Young, 209 U. S., at 163; Osborn v. Bank of United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 838–846 (1824); Lee, supra, at 213, 219. But the inadequacy of a legal remedy is a prerequisite for equitable relief in any case. That we pronounced state legal remedies inadequate before permitting the suit to proceed is unsurprising, and it is not a sufficient basis for the principal opinion's broad conclusion.
Not only do our early Young cases fail to rely on the absence of a state forum as a basis for jurisdiction, but we also permitted federal actions to proceed even though a state forum was open to hear the plaintiff's claims. In fact, Young itself relied on two such cases, Reagan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 154 U. S. 362 (1894), and Smyth v. Ames, 169 U. S. 466 (1898). See 209 U. S., at 153–155. Both Reagan and Smyth, like Young, involved challenges to state enforcement of railroad rates. In each case, the Court permitted the federal suit to proceed in part because state statutes authorized state court challenges to those rates. As Young made clear, however, the fact that the States had waived immunity in their own courts was not the sole basis for permitting the federal suit to proceed. Discussing Reagan, the Young Court stated: “This court held that [language authorizing a suit in state court] permitted a suit in [federal court), but it also held that, irrespective of that consent, the suit was not in effect a suit against the State (although the Attorney General was enjoined), and therefore not prohibited under the [Eleventh] [A]mendment. ... Each of these grounds is effective and both are of equal force.” 209 U. S., at 153 (emphasis added). Similarly, the Young Court emphasized that the decision in Smyth was not based solely on the state statute authorizing suit in state court; rather, it was based on the conclusion that the suit "was not a suit against a State.” 209 U. S., at 154.