In a unanimous opinion, eight of the nine justices found that national banks are not treated as a citizen in every state in which they operate a branch. Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in the case.
The ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, overturned a decision of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a South Carolina case last year that said a national bank is a corporate citizen of any state in which it locates and maintains a branch.
The U.S. Justice Department supported the position of Wachovia Bank that a national bank is located at the address of its main office not wherever it operates branches.
Congress did not broadly authorize national banks to establish branches across state lines until 1994, the court noted.