United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
HONORABLE ALFRED H. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Defendants' Motion 1o Dismiss (Doc. #12)
and Plaintiffs' Response (Doc. #16). Having considered
the parties' arguments and the applicable legal
authority, the Court grants in part and denies in part
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.
case arises from an investigation conducted by the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services
("TDFPS") of Plaintiffs and Their home based upon
anonymous allegations of child neglect. Based upon the
investigation, Plaintiffs brought claims against the TDFPS
and Hank Whitman ("Whitman") (the Commissioner of
TDFPS) in his official capacity. Plaintiffs seek monetary and
injunctive relief for alleged violations of their Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights to the United States Constitution
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs seek a permanent
injunction against TDFPS and any of its agents from acting on
anonymous complaints without proper investigation of such
complaints. Doc. #1 at 7. Additionally, Plaintiffs request
TDFPS and Whitman change the process and protocols concerning
third-party complaints. Id. at 5.
now moves to dismiss this case for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, and
Plaintiffs' failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ P.
12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6). The question before the Court is
whether the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the
claims against TDFPS and Whitman.
Motion to Dismiss 12(b)(1)
district court must dismiss a case when the plaintiff fails
to establish subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)
(1). "When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in
conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should
consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before
addressing any attack on the merits." Ramming v.
United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). A
dismissal based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction does
not constitute a determination of the claim on its merits,
however, and does not prevent a plaintiff from pursuing the
claim in a court that has proper jurisdiction. Id.
Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution has been
interpreted to preclude suit against a state government by
citizens of that state unless the state has waived its
immunity or Congress has abrogated the state's immunity.
Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 73
(2000); Aguilar v. Tex. Dept. of Criminal Justice,
160 F.3d 1052, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998). This protection extends
to state agencies and departments and applies regardless of
the type of relief sought. Pennhurst State Sch. &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); see
also Florida Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services v.
Florida Nursing Home Assn., 450 U.S. 147 (1981);
Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury, 323 U.S.
459 (1945). However, state officials may be sued in their
official capacity for injunctive or declaratory relief, but
not monetary. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-160
Eleventh Amendment bars suits against state agencies
Plaintiffs' have sued the TDFPS, a Texas state agency.
"Absent waiver, neither a State nor agencies acting
under its control may be subject to suit in federal
court.'" Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer
Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144
(1993) (quoting Welch v. Texas Dept. of Highways and
Public Transportation, 483 U.S. 468, 480 (1987).
Additionally, Congress has not waived Eleventh Amendment
immunity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979); see also Raj v.
Louisiana. Univ., 714 F.3d 322, 328 (5th Cir. 2013).
Here, TDFPS has not waived its immunity from this lawsuit.
See Thomas v. Tex. Dep't of Family & Protective
Servs., 427 Fed.Appx. 309, 312-13 (5th Cir. 2011) (per
curiam) (finding that TDFPS is a state agency that has not
waived its immunity from suit and affirming dismissal due to
sovereign immunity of a Section 1983 action against TDFPS).
Accordingly, TDFPS is immune from suit in this Court under
the Eleventh Amendment. Therefore, as to Plaintiffs' 42
U.S.C. § 1983 claims against TDFPS, the Court finds it
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)
because claims against TDFPS are barred by Eleventh Amendment
Claims against Whitman in ...