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Riley v. Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control of Louisiana Department of Revenue

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 22, 2019

TRACY RILEY
v.
OFFICE OF ALCOHOL & TOBACCO CONTROL OF THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, ET AL.

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are two motions to dismiss-the first motion[1] filed on behalf of Emily Cassidy, Jessica Starns, and former Governor Bobby Jindal, and the second motion[2] filed on behalf of Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Governor John Bel Edwards, and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control of the Louisiana Department of Revenue (the “ATC”) (collectively, the “defendants”). Both motions move for the dismissal of plaintiff Tracy Riley's (“Riley”) claims against the defendants pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the motions are granted under Rule 12(b)(1).

         I.

         In July 2018, Riley filed this lawsuit against over 100 individuals and entities.[3]Riley's amended complaint is unclear, but it arguably asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, Article I §§ 2 and 3 of the Louisiana Constitution, and several additional state law claims.[4] The defendants move to dismiss Riley's claims against them for several reasons.

         The defendants first argue that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because they are entitled to sovereign immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment.[5] Riley's amended complaint states that she is suing Bobby Jindal in his official capacity as former governor of Louisiana; Jessica Starns in her official capacity as an attorney for the ATC; Juana Martine-Lombard in her official capacity as commissioner of the ATC; Jeff Landry in his official capacity as the attorney general of Louisiana; and John Bel Edwards in his official capacity as the governor of Louisiana.[6] Without subject matter jurisdiction, the Court cannot proceed; therefore, the Court will first address the matter of Eleventh Amendment immunity.[7]

         II.

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). “The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

         “The Eleventh Amendment grants a State immunity from suit in federal court by citizens of other States, and by its own citizens as well.” Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 662 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613, 616 (2002)). Thus, the Eleventh Amendment “operates like a jurisdictional bar, depriving federal courts of the power to adjudicate suits against a state.” Id. Eleventh Amendment immunity applies with equal force to state officials sued in their official capacities because official-capacity suits are construed as suits against the state. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1992). Accordingly, Riley's claims against former Governor Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and Governor John Bel Edwards are effectively claims against the State of Louisiana.[8]

         Whether the Eleventh Amendment applies to the remaining defendants-the ATC and its former and current employees-requires further analysis. A state's sovereign immunity “extends to any state agency or entity deemed an ‘alter ego' or ‘arm' of the state.” Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Serv. Ctr., 307 F.3d 318, 326 (5th Cir. 2002); see also Vogt v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Orleans Levee Dist., 294 F.3d 684, 689 (5th Cir. 2002) (“[T]he Eleventh Amendment will bar a suit if the defendant state agency is so closely connected to the State that the State itself is ‘the real, substantial party in interest.'”) (quoting Hudson v. City of New Orleans, 174 F.3d 677, 681 (5th Cir. 1999)).

         The Fifth Circuit uses a six-factor test to determine whether an agency is an arm of the state. Perez, 307 F.3d at 326. The six factors are:

(1) whether state statutes and case law view the entity as an arm of the state;
(2) the source of the entity's ...

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