Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
Appeal from the 141st District Court Tarrant County, Texas
Trial Court No. 141-307634-19
Sudderth, C.J.; Gabriel and Kerr, JJ.
Tarrant County, Texas (the County), contends in this
accelerated interlocutory appeal that the specific waiver of
immunity from suit for injunctive relief provided in the
County Purchasing Act (CPA) does not extend to provide
subject-matter jurisdiction over appellee Jeffrey D.
Lerner's claim under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments
Act (UDJA) based on the County's alleged violations of
the CPA. Because the narrow waiver of immunity in the CPA
applies only to claims for injunctive relief and not to UDJA
claims, the trial court erred by denying the County's
plea to the jurisdiction based on the County's immunity
1983, the County has had a contractual relationship with
Dispute Resolution Services of North Texas (DRS) to manage
the County's alternative-dispute-resolution services for
"citizen disputes." Although the contract was
renewed annually, sometimes retroactively, Tarrant County did
not seek competitive bids for the management contract, valued
at over $400, 000 per year.
County's 2018 fiscal year-October 1, 2017, to September
30, 2018- the management contract was to expire on September
30, 2018. On August 15, 2018, appellee Jeffrey Lerner
contacted the County and asked for the opportunity to bid for
the management contract for fiscal year 2019. The County
informed Lerner on August 31, 2018, that it intended to renew
the contract with DRS. On December 27, 2018, the County's
commissioners court, as part of its consent agenda, approved
the management contract with DRS for fiscal year 2019-October
1, 2018, to September 30, 2019.
months later, Lerner filed suit against Tarrant County for
violating the CPA based on the County's failure to comply
with the CPA's competitive-bidding requirements.
See Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 262.023.
Lerner pleaded for a declaration under the UDJA that the
fiscal year 2019 management contract between the County and
DRS was void based on the CPA violation, for a temporary and
permanent injunction barring further performance under the
noncompliant management contract under the CPA, and for
attorney's fees under the UDJA. See Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 37.003(a), .004,
.009; Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 262.033.
County filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that it had
governmental immunity from Lerner's claims for
declaratory relief and for attorney's fees under the
UDJA, which had not been waived by either the UDJA or the
CPA. Tarrant County conceded that its immunity was waived for
purposes of Lerner's request for injunctive relief under
the express terms of the CPA. See Tex. Loc.
Gov't Code Ann. § 262.033.
August 22, 2019, the trial court held a nonevidentiary
hearing on Lerner's temporary-injunction request and
Tarrant County's plea to the jurisdiction and orally
denied both. The trial court signed a nonspecific order
to that effect on September 12, 2019-before the expiration of
the management contract for fiscal year 2019. Tarrant County
appeals the denial of its plea; Lerner does not appeal the
denial of a temporary injunction. See Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 51.014(a)(4), (8).
political subdivision of the State is immune from suit, a
court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Tex. Dep't
of Transp. v. Jones, 8 S.W.3d 636, 638 (Tex. 1999) (per
curiam). Governmental immunity will bar UDJA actions against
the State and its political subdivisions absent a clear
legislative waiver. Tex. Dep't of Transp. v.
Sefzik, 355 S.W.3d 618, 620 (Tex. 2011) (per curiam).
Although the UDJA contains a limited and inapplicable waiver
of immunity for challenges to the validity of an ordinance or
statute, see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§ 37.006(b); Sefzik, 355 S.W.3d at 621, the
UDJA is "not a general waiver of sovereign
immunity." Tex. Parks & Wildlife Dept v. Sawyer
Tr, 354 S.W.3d 384, 388 (Tex. 2011); see also Town
of Shady Shores v. Swanson, No. 18-0413, 2019 WL
6794327, at *6 (Tex. Dec. 13, 2019). Thus, governmental
immunity "will bar an otherwise proper [U]DJA claim that
has the effect of establishing a right to relief against the
State for which the Legislature has not waived sovereign
immunity." Sawyer Tr, 354 S.W.3d at 388.
County argues that the trial court erred by denying the
jurisdictional plea because it was entitled to immunity from
Lerner's UDJA claim and attendant claim for
attorney's fees,  which deprived the trial court of
subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. We review the
trial court's denial de novo as a question of law.
Hous. Belt & Terminal Ry. Co. v. City of Hous.,
487 S.W.3d 154, 160 (Tex. 2016); Harris Cty. Hosp. Dist.
v. Tomball Reg'l Hosp., 283 S.W.3d 838, 842 (Tex.
2009). In this review, we construe the pleadings liberally,
taking all factual assertions as true and looking to
Lerner's intent. See Heckman v. Williamson Cty.,
369 S.W.3d 137, 149-50 (Tex. 2012). Lerner bore the burden of
alleging facts affirmatively demonstrating that the trial
court had subject-matter jurisdiction over his UDJA-based
claims-facts constituting a claim for which the County's
governmental immunity from suit had been waived. See
Zachry Constr. Corp. v. Port of Hous. Auth. of Harris
Cty., 449 S.W.3d 98, 110 (Tex. 2014); Heckman,
369 S.W.3d at 149-50; Schmitz , 550 S.W.3d at 351.
contends that the CPA waives the County's immunity for
purposes of his UDJA-based claims as well as for his claim
for injunctive relief It is solely within the province of the
Legislature to consent to a suit against a governmental
entity. See Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco Consol. ISD v. Tex.
Political Prop./Cas. Jt. Self-Ins. Fund,212 S.W.3d 320,
326 (Tex. 2006); Tex. Nat. Res. Conservation Comm'n
v. IT-Davy,74 S.W.3d 849, 854 (Tex. 2002). Such a
waiver is effectuated only through clear and unambiguous