Fifth Circuit Holds that Defense Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Should have been Denied Because State Removed Class Action to Federal Court
Disabled persons filed a putative class action against the State of Texas alleging that its fee-based parking placard program violated the federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA); the defense removed the action to federal court and then moved to dismiss the action on state sovereign immunity grounds. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. On the state’s petition for remand, the Circuit Court held that by removing the case to federal court, the defense had waived its right to object to federal court jurisdiction: “The narrow holding in the instant case is that . . . when a State removes to federal court a private state court suit based on a federal-law claim, it invokes federal jurisdiction and thus waives its unqualified right to object peremptorily to the federal district court’s jurisdiction on the ground of state sovereign immunity.” Meyers v. Texas, 454 F.3d 503 (5th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). The Fifth Circuit explained the limited nature of its holding as follows:
However, that waiver does not affect or limit the State’s ability to assert whatever rights, immunities or defenses are provided for by its own sovereign immunity law to defeat the claims against the State finally and on their merits in the federal courts. In sum, Texas may assert its state sovereign immunity as defined by its own law as a defense against the plaintiffs’ claims in the federal courts, but it may not use it to defeat federal jurisdiction or as a return ticket back to the state court system.
Finally, the Court noted that it was not reaching the merits of any of the issues presented by the complaint.