TEXAS; KEN PAXTON, in his official capacity as Texas Attorney General, Plaintiffs - Appellants
TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS; SALLY HERNANDEZ, in her official capacity as Sheriff of Travis County, Texas; CITY OF AUSTIN, TEXAS; ORA HOUSTON, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; DELIA GARZA, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; SABINO RENTERIA, in his official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; GREGORIO CASAR, in his official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; ANN KITCHEN, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; JIMMY FLANNIGAN, in his official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; LESLIE POOL, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; ELLEN TROXCLAIR, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; KATHIE TOVO, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; ALISON ALTER, in her official capacity as City Council Member of the City of Austin, Texas; STEVE ADLER, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Austin, Texas; ELAINE HART, in her official capacity as Interim City Manager of the City of Austin, Texas; EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS; RICHARD WILES, in his official capacity as Sheriff of El Paso County, Texas; CITY OF EL CENIZO, TEXAS; RAUL L. REYES, in his official capacity as Mayor of El Cenizo, Texas; MAVERICK COUNTY, TEXAS; TOM SCHMERBER, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Maverick County, Texas; MARIO A. HERNANDEZ, in his official capacity as Constable Precinct 3-1 of Maverick County, Texas; TEXAS ORGANIZING PROJECT EDUCATION FUND; LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS, Defendants - Appellees
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
REAVLEY, ELROD, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
7, 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate
Bill 4 ("SB 4"). SB 4 curbs "sanctuary
city" policies by requiring Texas law enforcement
agencies to "comply with, honor, and fulfill"
federal immigration detainer requests, Tex. Crim. Proc. Code
Ann. § 2.251(a), and barring local entities from
"prohibit[ing] or materially limit[ing] the enforcement
of immigration laws," Tex. Gov't Code Ann. §
752.053(a). SB 4 authorizes, and in some instances requires,
Texas's Attorney General to enforce its provisions
through civil and criminal actions. City of El Cenizo,
Texas v. Texas, 890 F.3d 164, 175 (5th Cir. 2018). On
the flip side, SB 4 requires Texas to defend and indemnify
local entities against any "cause of action aris[ing]
out of a claim involving the local entity's good-faith
compliance with an immigration detainer request." Tex.
Gov't Code Ann. § 402.0241. SB 4 also provides for a
"competitive grant program to provide financial
assistance to local entities to offset costs related to . . .
enforcing immigration laws; or . . . complying with,
honoring, or fulfilling immigration detainer requests."
Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 772.0073(b). SB 4 became
effective on September 1, 2017.
4's enactment triggered a flurry of lawsuits. Relevant to
this appeal, hours after the bill was approved by Governor
Abbott, Texas and its Attorney General Ken Paxton
(collectively, "Texas" or "the state")
filed suit in the Austin division of the Western District of
Texas seeking a declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. §
2201 that SB 4 does not violate the Fourth or Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution, and is not
preempted by federal law. Texas named as defendants Travis
County and its public officials, the city of Austin and its
public officials, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Education Fund ("MALDEF"). The state alleged that
Travis County and Austin had a "policy and practice of
ignoring ICE detainer requests and refusing to cooperate with
federal immigration officials," and that Austin and
MALDEF intended to sue Texas over SB 4's
moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), arguing that Texas lacked Article III standing and
was seeking an impermissible advisory opinion. Texas amended
its complaint as of right on May 31, adding other
local-entity and non-profit defendants as well as claims for
declaratory relief based on the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution and provisions of the Texas Constitution.
Defendants renewed their 12(b)(1) challenges.
August 8, 2017, the district court dismissed Texas's
complaint, finding that Texas lacked Article III standing to
seek a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of a
statute before the law had become effective. The district
court noted that "[t]o hold otherwise would be to
'open a Pandora's box and invite every local
government to seek a court's judicial blessing' on a
law prior to it taking effect." Texas timely
district court's dismissal for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) is subject to de novo
review. Ballew v. Cont'l Airlines, Inc., 668
F.3d 777, 781 (5th Cir. 2012). We may affirm "on any
ground supported by the record, including one not reached by
the district court." Id.
resolving Article III standing disputes, we must determine
whether the district court possessed "jurisdiction
conferred by statute." See Stockman v. Fed. Election
Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 150-51 (5th Cir. 1998).
"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and
absent jurisdiction conferred by statute, lack the power to
adjudicate claims. It is incumbent on all federal courts to
dismiss an action whenever it appears that subject matter
jurisdiction is lacking. This is the 'first principle of
federal jurisdiction.'" Id. at 151 (quoting
Hart & Wechsler, The Federal Courts and the Federal
System 835 (2d ed. 1973)) (other citations omitted). On
appeal, Texas asserts jurisdiction solely under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, the federal-question jurisdiction statute.
analysis of § 1331 begins and ends with Franchise
Tax Board of the State of California v. Construction Laborers
Vacation Trust for Southern California, 463 U.S. 1
(1983). California agency Franchise Tax Board
filed a state court action against Construction Laborers
Vacation Trust, a regulated trust under the federal
Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
("ERISA"). The agency sought a declaration that
ERISA did not preempt state law authorizing the agency to
issue levies against the trust for delinquent taxes owed by
trust beneficiaries. The trust removed to federal district
court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and the agency appealed,
contending that the district court lacked jurisdiction.
Id. at 4-7.
Court found that the agency's jurisdictional challenge
reduced to "whether a federal district court could take
[original] jurisdiction of appellant's declaratory
judgment claim had it been brought under 28 U.S.C. §
2201." Id. at 19; see 28 U.S.C. §
1441 (providing that "any civil action brought in a
State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction, may be removed"). The Court
concluded that § 1331's grant of federal-question
jurisdiction does not encompass "suits by the States to
declare the validity of their regulations despite possibly
conflicting federal law." Franchise Tax
Board, 463 U.S. at 21; see also 13D Wright
& Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3566
(3d ed. 2017) ("[T]here is no federal jurisdiction of a
suit by a state for a declaration of the validity of state
law even though the party being sued by the state could have
raised the issue in federal court in an action for coercive
relief."). Emphasizing that statutory jurisdictional
grants like § 1331 should be interpreted "with an
eye to practicality and necessity," the Court explained,
States are not significantly prejudiced by an inability to
come to federal court for a declaratory judgment in advance
of a possible injunctive suit by a person subject to federal
regulation. They have a variety of means by which they can
enforce their own laws in their own courts, and they do not
suffer if the preemption questions such enforcement may raise
are tested there.
Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. at 20-21.
"[U]ntil Congress informs us otherwise, such a suit is
not within the original jurisdiction of the United States
district courts." Id. at 22.
Tax Board therefore reinforces comity among federal and
state courts and mandates dismissing Texas's declaratory
relief action. See Republican Party of Guam v.
Gutierrez, 277 F.3d 1086, 1090 (9th Cir. 2002) (applying
Franchise Tax Board to dismiss declaratory suit by
Guam legislature and noting that "the Guam legislature
has access to the Guam courts for the enforcement of"
the laws at issue). The state's efforts to avoid
dismissal are unconvincing. For instance, Texas leads with
the argument that "there is no federal regulation at
issue here that would allow an injunctive suit by the
defendants." That is not accurate, and
Texas's own brief repeatedly refers to "the
existence of a cause of action held by the declaratory
defendants (coercive plaintiffs in the San Antonio
lawsuits)." Texas also suggests that Franchise Tax
Board does not control because the state agency there
initially filed in state court and only sought a declaration
as to preemption, not constitutionality. Such distinctions
are immaterial. Franchise Tax Board expressly
addressed original jurisdiction over a § 2201 action
filed by a state, and did not turn ...