United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. MILLER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is a memorandum and recommendation
(“M&R”) in which Magistrate Judge Nancy K.
Johnson recommends granting defendant Texas A&M
University's (“TAMU”) motion to dismiss (Dkt.
57). Dkt. 82. Plaintiff Fayeola Jones has filed objections to
the M&R. Dkt. 85. TAMU responded. Dkt. 88. After
considering the M&R, objections, response, and applicable
law, the court is of the opinion that TAMU's motion to
dismiss (Dkt. 57) should be GRANTED for the reasons explained
in full in the M&R. Jones's objections (Dkt. 85)
should be OVERRULED, the M&R (Dkt. 82) should be ADOPTED
IN FULL, and Jones's claims against TAMU should be
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
a civil rights case. In May 2016, Jones attempted to pick up
a rental car from a counter located inside Easterwood Airport
in College Station, Texas. Dkt. 82 at 2. During this
encounter, Jones alleges that she was subjected to severe
discrimination based on her race and physical disability.
Id. Jones subsequently filed suit against, inter
alia, TAMU in its capacity as owner of Easterwood
Airport. Dkt. 1. Jones's third amended complaint brings
claims against TAMU under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and
1983. Dkt. 56 at 8. TAMU moved to dismiss, arguing that it
was entitled to sovereign immunity as an arm of the state.
Standard of Review
may file objections to a Magistrate Judge's ruling within
fourteen days of being served with a copy of a written order.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; see also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(c). The standard of review used by the district
court depends on whether the Magistrate Judge ruled on a
dispositive or non-dispositive motion. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 72; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c).
For dispositive motions, district courts “must
determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's
disposition that has been properly objected to.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(b)(3). Here, because the motion at issue is
dispositive and has been properly objected to, the court will
conduct a de novo review.
Magistrate Judge granted TAMU's motion to dismiss on the
ground that TAMU was entitled to sovereign immunity as an arm
of the state. Dkt. 82. Jones argues that TAMU's
activities as a quasi-private entity, including its operation
of Easterwood Airport, abrogate its immunity. Dkt. 85.
However, the court has reviewed these issues de novo and
fully agrees with the Magistrate Judge.
central contention is that TAMU has “voluntarily
abrogated its immunity and is no longer an arm of the
state.” Id. at 4. Jones argues that TAMU has
“transitioned from a small public institution into a
large, hybrid public-private entity that acts independent of
the State of Texas and can satisfy a judgment without ever
reaching into the state treasury.” Id. at 3.
Thus, Jones contends that TAMU has wholly forfeited its claim
to sovereign immunity, and cases prohibiting a claim-by-claim
determination of sovereign immunity are inapplicable.
controlling precedent forecloses Jones's argument. The
Fifth Circuit has consistently held that TAMU is an arm of
the state and is therefore entitled to sovereign immunity.
U.S. Oil Recovery Site Potentially Responsible Parties
Grp. v. R.R. Comm'n, 898 F.3d 497, 502 (5th Cir.
2018) (hereinafter, U.S. Oil Recovery Site); Gay Student
Servs. v. Tex. A&M Univ., 737 F.2d 1317, 1333-34
(5th Cir. 1984); accord Eustice v. Tex. A&M
Univ., No. 4:15-CV-03180, 2016 WL 8710444, at *3 (S.D.
Tex. Sept. 30, 2016) (Harmon, J.). This is true even if TAMU
may have engaged in proprietary functions, U.S. Oil
Recovery Site, 898 F.3d at 502, and even if it need not
reach into the state's treasury to satisfy a judgment,
Gay Student Servs., 737 F.2d at 1333. Although Jones
correctly states that TAMU's sovereign immunity does not
vary on a claim-by-claim basis, the above-referenced holdings
do not rest on this principle. See U.S. Oil Recovery
Site, 898 F.3d at 502. Rather, the Fifth Circuit has
repeatedly considered TAMU as a whole, most recently in 2018,
and concluded that TAMU was entitled to sovereign immunity.
Id.; Gay Student Servs., 737 F.2d at 1333.
Jones's argument cannot overcome this straightforward
motion to dismiss (Dkt. 57) is GRANTED for the reasons
explained in full in the M&R. Jones's objections
(Dkt. 85) are OVERRULED, the M&R (Dkt. 82) is ADOPTED IN
FULL, and Jones's claims against TAMU are DISMISSED WITH