Ex parte Madrazzo

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Ex parte Madrazzo
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Decided February 28, 1833
Full case nameEx parte Juan Madrazzo
Citations32 U.S. 627 (more)
7 Pet. 627; 8 L. Ed. 808; 1833 U.S. LEXIS 366
Case history
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Marshall
Associate Justices
William Johnson · Gabriel Duvall
Joseph Story · Smith Thompson
John McLean · Henry Baldwin
Case opinion
MajorityMarshall, joined by unanimous

Ex parte Madrazzo, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 627 (1833), was a United States Supreme Court case involving the suit of Juan Madrazo, a citizen of the Kingdom of Spain, against the state of Georgia.


It was Madrazo's second encounter with the United States court system. Madrazo's ship Isabelita was originally captured by a ship flying under the flag of Amelia, a colony in revolt from the Kingdom of Spain that had received no international recognition and was mainly run by Americans.

A court in the said country deemed the capture of the Isabelita and her cargo of slaves legal booty and sold them to William Bowen. Bowen later transported the slaves to the Creek nation, where they were captured in Georgia. After their capture, Governor John Clark of Georgia ordered some of them to be sold while the others remained in his possession. After a round of suits in the district court of Georgia, Madrazo filed a suit in the circuit court on appeal. It was argued whether the district court had jurisdiction of the case. The circuit court ruled that it did and restored the slaves to Madrazo. Georgia appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the case was not a case of admiralty but a case against the state, giving Madrazo no grounds for a case because of the Eleventh Amendment. Marshall wrote in his opinion of Governor of Georgia v. Madrazo, 26 US (1 Pet.) 110 (1828) that Madrazo's claim against the Governor of Georgia was against a state because the Governor was acting in his official office of Governor and that the claim did not have basis because of the Eleventh Amendment, which forbids cases of law or equity against a state. He found a loophole that the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution exempts cases of admiralty, which are of original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court dismissed the case and found that the property was not in the jurisdiction of a court of admiralty or in the possession of a private person. The governor was not a private person but in possession of the state of Georgia. Madrazo's case was thus a suit of law or equity and so could not stand.

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