Public Corporations Are Not Clothed With Immunity From Suit
But a void act is neither a law nor a command. It is a nullity. It confers no authority. It affords no protection. Whoever seeks to enforce unconstitutional statutes, or to justify under them, or to obtain immunity through them, fails in his defense and in his claim of exemption from suit.
It is said, however, that, in the cases referred to, the officers 645#####645 were held liable to suit because in the transaction complained of, the statute being unconstitutional, they could not be treated as agents of the State. And it is argued that these authorities have no application to suits against those public corporations which exist, and can act, in no other capacity than as governmental agencies, or political subdivisions of the State itself. But Neither Public Corporations Nor Political Subdivisions Are Clothed With That Immunity From Suit which belongs to the State alone by virtue of its sovereignty. In County of Lincoln v. Luning, 133 U.S. 529, 530, the court said that: "While a county is territorially a part of the State, yet politically it is also a corporation, created by and with such powers as are given to it by the State. In this respect it is a part of the State only in that remote sense in which any city, town, or other municipal corporation may be said to be a part." The court there held that the Eleventh Amendment was limited to those cases in which the State is the real party, or party on the record, but that counties were corporations which might be sued. Dunn v. University of Oregon, 9 Oregon, 357, 362; Herr v. Kentucky Lunatic Asylum, 97 Kentucky, 458, 463; S.C., 28 L.R.A. 394.
Corporate agents or individual officers of the State stand in no better position than officers of the General Government, and as to them it has often been held that: "The exemption of the United States from judicial process does not protect their officers and agents, civil or military, in time of peace, from being personally liable to an action of tort by a private person, whose rights of property they have wrongfully invaded or injured, even by authority of the United States." Belknap v. Schild, 161 U.S. 10, 18. Hopkins v. Clemson, 221 U.S. 636, 644-5 (1911).
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