United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Hanks Jr. United States District Judge.
the Court is the Office of the Attorney General Texas Child
Support Division's (the “OAG”) Motion to
Dismiss. Dkt. 79. After reviewing the motion, the response,
the reply, and the applicable law, the Court
GRANTS the motion.
Background and Prior Proceedings
23, 1999, a Galveston County court entered a Final Decree of
Divorce between the Plaintiff, Joe Blessett
(“Blessett”), and Beverly Garcia
(“Garcia”). Dkt. 21-1. The court also established
Blessett's paternity over a child born during the
marriage and ordered him to pay child support payments of
$800 each month. Id. After Blessett consistently
defaulted on this child support obligation for sixteen years,
the county court entered an order in favor of Garcia
confirming child support arrearage in the amount of $131,
923.14. Dkt. 21-2.
two years later, Blessett attempted to challenge the child
support order by filing a “Notice of Disestablishment
of Paternity [and] Demand for Dismissal Pursuant to Sec. 466
42. U.S.C. § 666 5(D)(iii) Fraud and Duress” with
the same county court. Dkt. 21-3. After review, the county
court denied Blessett's “[d]emand for
[d]ismissal” of the child support order. Dkt. 21-4. In
response, Blessett filed the exact same “[d]emand for
[d]ismissal” as his complaint in this case against the
OAG and the “lead attorney” for the OAG in her
official capacity, Diana M. Morton
(“Morton”). See Dkt. 1 (for the complaint
in this case); c.f. Dkt. 21-3 (for the
“[d]emand for [d]ismissal” filed in state court).
On February 12, 2018, this Court dismissed Blessett's
complaint under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, because
the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to collaterally
review a state court Judgment. Dkt. 60.
appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the Court's judgment
in part and vacated it in part. Although the Fifth Circuit
agreed that the Court had properly dismissed Blessett's
attempts to collaterally attack the state court divorce
decree and child support order, it found that Blessett's
pleadings asserted additional, independent, claims in the
attempted enforcement and collection of the child support
order. Theses claims, the Fifth Circuit held,
were within the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Dkt.
73. Accordingly, the case was remanded to this Court to
adjudicate Blesset's claims concerning fraud in the
attempted enforcement and collection of the state child
support judgments. Id. All other claims, including
those concerning the deprivation of due process in state
court, were dismissed from this case. Id. at 2
(“Moreover, it is of no help to Blessett that he claims
he failed to receive notice of any hearing in relation to the
child support arrearage judgment of July 13, 2015, as
constitutional questions arising in state proceedings are to
be resolved by the state courts.”).
light of the Fifth Circuit's order, the Court allowed
Blessett an opportunity to amend his complaint. Dkt. 75. The
OAG now moves to dismiss Blessett's amended complaint
under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Dkt. 79. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that
Blessett's federal law claims must be dismissed on
12(b)(1) grounds. See Hitt v. Pasadena, 561 F.2d
606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (“Ordinarily, where both these
grounds for dismissal apply, the court should dismiss only on
the jurisdictional ground under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1),
without reaching the question of failure to state a claim
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).”). The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction as to Blessett's
remaining state law claims. Accordingly, this case is
dismissed in its entirety.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.”
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan v. Layale Enters. (In re
B-727 Aircraft), 272 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2001).
Thus, a federal district court is required to presume that it
does not have the jurisdiction to rule on a matter until
“the party asserting jurisdiction” can prove
otherwise. Griffith v. Alcon Research, Ltd., 712
Fed.Appx. 406, 408 (5th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks
omitted). To make its case, the party asserting jurisdiction
may direct the Court to look at “(1) the complaint
alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts
evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by
undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed
facts.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d
158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). Ultimately, a court cannot dismiss
a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction unless
“it appears certain that [a party] cannot prove any set
of facts” in support of its assertion that jurisdiction
is appropriate in federal court. Bombardier Aero. Emple.
Welfare Benefits Plan v. Ferrer, Poirot & Wansbrough,
P.C., 354 F.3d 348, 351 (5th Cir. 2003).
Blessett's amended complaint liberally, Blessett asserts
causes of action against the OAG and Morton for fraud,
intentional misrepresentation,  and the deprivation of
constitutional rights under color of state law pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. See Kocurek v. Cuna Mut. Ins.
Soc'y, 459 Fed.Appx. 371, 373 (5th Cir. 2012)
(District courts are to construe a Plaintiff's complaint
liberally). However, the Eleventh Amendment's grant of
sovereign immunity bars Blessett from asserting his §
1983 claim against either the OAG or Morton. Obligated to
dismiss Blessett's only federal claim against non-diverse
defendants, the Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Blessett's remaining state law claims.
De Sanchez v. Banco Cent. de Nicaragua, 770 F.2d
1385, 1389 (5th Cir. 1985) (“If sovereign immunity
exists, then the court lacks…subject matter
jurisdiction to hear the case and must enter an order of
dismissal.”); see also 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c) (A district court may decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction if “the district court has
dismissed all claims over which it has original
Eleventh Amendment Grant of Sovereign Immunity
Supreme Court has held the Eleventh Amendment provides
“an unconsenting State [with immunity] from suits
brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by
citizens of another state.” Pennhurst State Sch.
& Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984);
see U.S. Const. amend. XI. “There are only two
exceptions to this long-standing rule.” Pace v.
Bogalusa City Sch. Bd., 325 F.3d 609, 613 (5th Cir.
2003), aff'd, 403 F.3d 272 (5th Cir. 2005). The
first, is if Congress abrogates a state's sovereign
immunity to suit pursuant to its “power [under §
5] of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Coll. Sav. Bank v.
Fla. Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S.
666, 670 (1999). And the second, is if a state decides to
“waive its sovereign immunity by consenting to
suit.” Id. Absent the presence of either of
these two circumstances, a plaintiff cannot sue a state-or
any of its agencies-in federal court. See Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp., 465 U.S. at 100 (“[A] suit in
which the State or one of its agencies or departments is
named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh
Amendment.”); see also Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v. City of
El Paso, 243 F.3d 936, 937-38 (5th Cir. 2001)
(“[T]he Eleventh Amendment bar to suit in federal
courts” applies to state agencies that act as an
“arm of the state.”).
in nature, Eleventh Amendment protection also extends to
individual state employees who are sued in their official
capacity. See Will v. Mich. Dep'tof State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989). This is because
“a suit against a state official in his or her official
capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a
suit against the official's office.” Id.
“As such, it is no different from a suit against the
State itself.”Id. Accordingly, the same
sovereign immunity protections apply to state employees
acting in their official capacity as the ...