State Officials Are Ordered To Turn Over Sunken Treasure

1982

In 1622 the Nuestra Senora de Atocha sank forty nautical miles west of Key West, Florida. When a salvage company locates the wreck in the spring of 1971, Florida claims that the ship belongs to the state under Florida law. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the boundary of Florida does not extend as far as the state asserts, and the federal government claims ownership of the salvaged property. The state argues that it cannot be sued for it due to the Eleventh Amendment. In Florida Department of State v. Treasure Salvors, the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees that the Eleventh Amendment prevents a direct action against the state, because the suit is directed only at state officials, who have no rightful ownership of the salvaged property.