United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 18, 2019, Kennith Johnson, with leave of the Court,
filed a second amended complaint against the City of
Indianola and Darnell Fisher, in both his official and
individual capacities. Doc. #14. The second amended complaint
alleges claims for “breach of duty, ”
“negligence” and “42 USC 1983.”
Id. at 4-5. On August 27, 2019, the Court directed
the parties “to file simultaneous briefs addressing the
question of whether this Court has subject matter
jurisdiction over the negligence claims asserted against the
City.” Doc. #51. The parties filed their briefs on
September 10, 2019. Docs. #53, #54.
most cases, Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity bars
private suits against nonconsenting states in federal
court.” City of Austin v. Paxton, 943 F.3d
993, 997 (5th Cir. 2019). Ordinarily, “there are only
two circumstances in which an individual may sue a State: (1)
Congressional abrogation of state sovereign immunity
consistent with the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment; or (2) State waiver of
immunity.” Bay Point Props., Inc. v. Miss.
Transp. Comm'n, 937 F.3d 454, 456 (5th Cir. 2019)
(internal quotation marks omitted). When such exceptions are
inapplicable to a cause of action, a court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over that claim. Walker v. Beaumont
Indep. Sch. Dist., 938 F.3d 724, 734 (5th Cir. 2019).
Eleventh Amendment does not extend its immunity to units of
local government.” Sissom v. Univ. of Tex. High
Sch., 927 F.3d 343, 347 (5th Cir. 2019) (citation
omitted). Accordingly, “cities and counties do not
enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity.” Hess v. Port
Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 513 U.S. 30, 47
(1994). Nevertheless, states remain free to grant
sovereign immunity pursuant to statute. See Stem v.
Gomez, 813 F.3d 205, 214 (5th Cir. 2016) (“Under
Texas law, sovereign immunity protects the state, its
political subdivisions, and cities from lawsuits for money
damages or other retroactive relief by depriving a court of
subject matter jurisdiction.”). Pursuant to this power,
the State of Mississippi has granted immunity to its
political subdivisions, including municipalities. Miss. Code
Ann. § 11-46-3(1). This immunity is waived, under
limited circumstances, by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act.
Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-5(1).
brief, the City argues that Johnson's negligence claims
fall outside the scope of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act and
that “the authorization of the Mississippi legislature
[for suit] is a jurisdictional precedent ….”
Doc. #54 at 8. This Court disagrees.
the Fifth Circuit does not appear to have considered whether
state law sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional defense, it
has held that “[t]he laws of a state cannot enlarge or
restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts.”
Weems v. McCloud, 619 F.2d 1081, 1087 (5th Cir.
1980) (citation omitted). It stands to reason, therefore,
that a state sovereign immunity defense does not deprive a
federal court of jurisdiction. See Rodriguez v. Cook
Cty., 664 F.3d 627, 632 (7th Cir. 2011) (“[I]f
Illinois had purported to insist that all civil litigation
against prosecutors occur in state courts, that could not
curtail federal jurisdiction.”). Accordingly, the Court
concludes that the City's arguments, which are premised
on state law, do not deprive this Court of jurisdiction over
the negligence claims asserted against the City.
reasons above, the Court declines to dismiss on
jurisdictional grounds Johnson's negligence claims
brought against the City.