Buffalo Law Review

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Does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to hear controversies between a state and the United States? Although the Supreme Court has asserted this power, commentators have puzzled over the question for decades. Because Article III does not enumerate controversies between a state and the United States, many scholars have concluded that the Court’s exercise of this power is illegitimate, or at least atextual. This Article argues that the Constitution’s text does give the Supreme Court the power to hear such controversies, but to understand why it is necessary to understand the way that the framers would, for the sake of brevity, combine several concepts into a single phrase, what this Article terms “collapse textualism.” The framers combined two heads of jurisdiction (“controversies between the United States and a State” and “all other controversies involving the United States”) into a single grant of jurisdiction over “Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party.” Thus, because the Court has original jurisdiction over those controversies “in which a State shall be a Party” it therefore has original jurisdiction over “controversies between the United States and a State.”