what happens when one government entity “sues” another one?

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For example, in the US the Justice Department just “sued” the state of Texas over the abortion ban. Typically I think of “sueing” for monetary compensation when someone has wronged you in some way, so what does it mean in this context?

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“The US government is asking the court to declare the abortion law “invalid, null, and void,” and bar Texas from enforcing it in any way.”

So they want the court to strike down the law

In this case the US Justice Dept is suing Texas to block its controversial new abortion law.

In this case, the DOJ believes the law to be unconstitutional and is suing the state on that basis. Instead of money, the DOJ is seeking an injunction that blocks the state of Texas from enforcing the law.

Sue can means “to bring a civil suit against”. Civil suits are wide ranging and do no always seek monetary damages, they are simply the branch of law dedicated to non-criminal activity.

Suing does not always involve money. It can mean trying to get someone to stop doing something, or to do something. In this context, suing means filling a legal complaint against an entity for reviewal by a court. So, the Justice Department is basically accusing Texas of doing something wrong, so they sue them in order for this action to be decided by the courts. If the courts find in favour of the Justice Department, they ask Texas to stop doing what they are doing.

As an example, Trump sued the states that voted against him in the recent election. Had he won, he would not have gotten any money, but those votes would have invalidated.

To sue someone is to bring a complaint of wrongdoing before the courts to adjudicate. It need not imply only financial restitution.

In the US, the highest law of the land is the Federal or US Constitution and it is a matter of principle that no government can make laws that do not abide by it. In this case, it appears that the DOJ is asking that the State law be ruled unconstitutional and therefore, unenforceable.

When the DOJ takes action, it takes place in the Federal (not State) court system. In this case the case will initially be heard in District Court (the lowest court in the Federal system) and likely go on to the US Court of Appeals and then possibly to the US Supreme Court (the highest court in the Federal System).