from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
SMITH, WIENER, and ELROD, Circuit Judges.
Sissom sued the University of Texas at Austin, University of
Texas High School (UT High School), and various school
officials, for racketeering and "gaslighting"-a
term used by some to describe causing psychological harm. The
district court dismissed Sissom's complaint for lack of
jurisdiction as to all defendants, holding that they are
entitled to sovereign immunity. We AFFIRM.
1998, the Texas State Board of Education approved the
University of Texas at Austin to establish UT High School, an
online high school program authorized to award high school
credits and diplomas. UT High School is governed by the
University of Texas.
enrolled in UT High School in 2014 and attended for the next
two and a half years until he seemingly graduated from the
school. Sissom, proceeding pro se, filed suit
against the University of Texas at Austin, UT High School,
Beth Cooper (UT High School's principal), Steve Rosen
(Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs for the
University of Texas), and Steve Walls (UT High School's
superintendent) in their official capacities, alleging claims
of "gaslighting" as well as violations of the
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
bases his claims on the events that allegedly occurred while
he was a student at UT High School. At bottom, Sissom alleges
that UT High School's various policies and practices
regarding grading and ranking "knocked [him] out of the
running" for various scholarships and admissions into
prestigious colleges. Sissom also alleges that UT High
School's officials conspired to do so in order to
gaslight-or cause psychological harm to-him. The district
court dismissed Sissom's complaint for lack of
jurisdiction, holding that all of the defendants enjoy
sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Sissom
review a district court's dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1)
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction de novo.
Meyers ex rel. Benzing v. Texas, 410 F.3d 236, 240
(5th Cir. 2005).
are immune from suit except by their consent or by express
abrogation of their immunity by Congress pursuant to an
appropriate constitutional provision. Alden v.
Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 733 (1999); see also Seminole
Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 72 (1996). The
states' immunity "is a fundamental aspect of the
sovereignty which the [s]tates enjoyed before the
ratification of the Constitution, and which they retain today
. . . except as altered by the plan of the Convention or
certain constitutional Amendments." Alden, 527
U.S. at 713. The Supreme Court has made it clear that,
although the states' immunity from suit has been referred
to as "Eleventh Amendment immunity," this phrase is
"something of a misnomer, for the sovereign immunity of
the States neither derives from, nor is limited by, the terms
of the Eleventh Amendment." Id.; accord
Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Hyatt, 139 S.Ct. 1485, 1496
Eleventh Amendment confirmed the deeply rooted
"recognition that the [s]tates, although a union,
maintain certain attributes of sovereignty, including
sovereign immunity." Hyatt, 139 S.Ct. at 1496
(quoting P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf &
Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993)). However, because
the Eleventh Amendment textually divests federal courts of
jurisdiction over states, it is indispensable to assessing
this court's jurisdiction. Under the Eleventh Amendment,
"[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States . . . ."
U.S. Const. amend. XI. "When a state agency is the named
defendant, the Eleventh Amendment bars suits for both money
damages and injunctive relief unless the state has waived its
immunity." Cozzo v. Tangipahoa Par.
Council-President Gov't, 279 F.3d 273, 280-81 (5th
Cir. 2002). However, "the Eleventh Amendment does not
extend its immunity to units of local government."
Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531
U.S. 356, 369 (2001).
we must determine whether UT High School is an arm of the
state entitled to sovereign immunity or a local government
body not entitled to sovereign immunity. "To determine
whether a unit of government belongs to state or local
government, we employ the six-factor test developed in
Clark v. Tarrant Cty., Tex., 798 F.2d 736 (5th Cir.
1986)." Providence Behavioral ...