MARY F. EDMISTON, Plaintiff - Appellant,
LOUISIANA SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER, Defendant-Appellee.
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Louisiana
HIGGINBOTHAM, ELROD, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.
JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, CIRCUIT JUDGE
case requires us to determine whether the Louisiana Small
Business Development Center is a juridical entity capable of
being sued under federal law for alleged age discrimination.
Holding that it is not, we AFFIRM the district court's
dismissal for failure to state a claim.
Edmiston, proceeding pro se, alleges that she was,
inter alia, an office manager for the Louisiana
Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) on the campus of
Northwestern State University at Natchitoches. She alleges
that she is over 71 years old and was fired because of age
discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967,  and in an act of retaliation, in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
complaint originally named the LSBDC and the State of
Louisiana as defendants. She amended her complaint to remove
the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana Attorney General's
office moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds
that the LSBDC is not a legal entity and thus lacks capacity
to be sued. Edmiston moved to amend her complaint again to
add the State of Louisiana and the Board of Supervisors for
the University System of Louisiana as defendants.
magistrate judge recommended 12(b)(6) dismissal for failure
to state a claim and denial of the motion to amend as futile.
The magistrate judge acknowledged that there was not caselaw
directly on point for whether the LSBDC was an independent
juridical entity. Nonetheless, the magistrate judge concluded
that the LSBDC did not exist separate and apart from the
Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System,
and that the Board of Supervisors was immune from suit
because the ADEA does not abrogate state sovereign immunity.
As to the Title VII claim-for which state sovereign immunity
would be abrogated-the magistrate judge noted that Title VII
applies only to claims based on race, color, religion, sex,
or national origin, and thus a claim alleging retaliation for
complaining about age discrimination cannot be brought under
district court adopted all of the magistrate judge's
recommendations and additionally held that the LSBDC does not
meet the definition of an "employer" under 29
U.S.C. § 630(b) of the ADEA (defining
"employer" to mean, inter alia, an entity
with twenty or more employees).
filed a timely notice of appeal, and this court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Edmiston
argues on appeal that: (1) LSBDC is an independent juridical
entity that is not entitled to state sovereign immunity; and
that (2) LSBDC is an employer for ADEA
purposes. Our analysis starts and ends with argument
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is
subject to de novo review. Johnson v. Hous.
Auth. of Jefferson Par., 442 F.3d 356, 359 (5th Cir.
2006). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter" to
"state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). To state a claim to relief that is
plausible, the claim must be made against a juridical entity
that has the capacity to be sued and "enjoy[s] a
separate legal existence." See Darby v. Pasadena
Police Dep't, 939 F.2d 311, 313 (5th Cir. 1991)
(citation omitted). Although we must accept as true all
factual allegations in the complaint, that presumption does
not extend to legal conclusions. Ashcroft, 556 U.S.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure direct that the capacity of
an entity which is neither an individual nor a corporation to
be sued in federal court is determined by state law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). Under Louisiana law, "[t]here are
two kinds of persons: natural persons and juridical persons.
A natural person is a human being. A juridical person is an
entity to which the law attributes personality, such as a
corporation or a partnership." La. C. C. Art. 24. The
Louisiana Supreme Court has held that "[i]n the absence
of positive law to the contrary, a local government unit may
be deemed to be a juridical person separate and distinct from
other government entities, when the organic law grants it the
legal capacity to ...