from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
CLEMENT, ELROD, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.
BROWN CLEMENT, CIRCUIT JUDGE
City of Austin enacted a housing ordinance that prohibits
landlords from refusing tenants who wish to pay their rent
with federal housing vouchers. Shortly thereafter, the State
of Texas enacted a statute that sought to invalidate the
City's ordinance and to allow landlords to continue to
refuse federal vouchers. The City then sued Ken Paxton, the
Texas Attorney General, and the Texas Workforce Commission
(together, the "State"), seeking to enjoin the
Texas statute, alleging it was preempted by federal law. The
State moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction
based on standing and Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity
and for the City's failure to state any plausible claims.
The district court denied the State's motion, holding
that the City had standing, and that the City's suit
could proceed against Attorney General Paxton and the Texas
Workforce Commission under the Ex parte Young
exception to sovereign immunity. The State then brought this
interlocutory appeal with respect to the district court's
sovereign-immunity holding only. Because Attorney General
Paxton does not possess the requisite "connection to the
enforcement" of the Texas statute to satisfy Ex
parte Young, and because the Texas Workforce Commission
is a state agency immune to suit, we REVERSE and REMAND to
the district court.
Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (the "voucher
program" or the "program") allows low-income
families to use federally-funded vouchers to access the
private rental market. The United States Department of
Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") funds the
program, but state and local public-housing authorities
administer it. A voucher recipient is responsible for finding
a landlord that will accept federal housing vouchers.
See 24 C.F.R. § 982.302(a).
December 2014, the City adopted a housing ordinance (the
"Ordinance"), that bars landlords from refusing to
rent to tenants paying their rent with program vouchers. The
City contends that the Ordinance helps to "remove
barriers to fair housing choice by allowing voucher holders .
. . [to rent] housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods in
the City." The City asserts that enacting the Ordinance
is part of its obligation under the voucher program's
mandate: "[the program was created] [f]or the purpose of
aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to
live and of promoting economically mixed housing." 42
U.S.C. § 1437f(a).
response to the Ordinance, the Texas legislature enacted
Texas Local Government Code § 250.007 to prevent
municipalities and counties from adopting ordinances that
restrict landlords' rights to refuse to rent to voucher
program participants. Section 250.007(a) bars municipalities
or counties from "adopt[ing] or enforc[ing] an ordinance
or regulation that prohibits [a landlord] . . . from refusing
to lease or rent [a] housing accommodation to a person
because the person's lawful source of income to pay rent
includes funding from a federal housing assistance
program." Tex. Loc. Gov't Code § 250.007(a).
Section 250.007(c) permits municipalities and counties to
create incentive and other programs that encourage landlords
to allow federal housing vouchers. Id. §
City originally sued the State of Texas and Greg Abbott, the
Governor of Texas, alleging that federal law preempts §
250.007 because § 250.007 "obstructs
[Congress's] purposes and objectives" in creating
the voucher program. The State of Texas moved to dismiss the
proceeding for (i) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based
on standing and sovereign immunity, and (ii) the City's
failure to state any plausible claims. The City then amended
its complaint, replacing Governor Abbott with Ken Paxton, the
Texas Attorney General, in his official capacity, and the
Texas Workforce Commission.
district court denied the State's motion to dismiss for
lack of jurisdiction, rejecting the State's standing and
sovereign-immunity arguments. The court dismissed the
City's conflict-preemption claim and one of its
express-preemption claims but denied the State's motion
to dismiss the City's second express-preemption claim.
The issue in this interlocutory appeal is whether Attorney
General Paxton and the Texas Workforce Commission are subject
to the Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh
Amendment sovereign immunity.
review the district court's jurisdictional determination
of sovereign immunity de novo. NiGen Biotech, L.L.C. v.
Paxton, 804 F.3d 389, 393 (5th Cir. 2015); Moore v.
La. Bd. of Elementary & Secondary Educ., 743 F.3d
959, 962 (5th Cir. 2014).
cases, Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity bars private
suits against nonconsenting states in federal court. See
Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S.
247, 253 (2011) ("Sovereign immunity is the privilege of
the sovereign not to be sued without its consent.");
see also Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett,
531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001) ("The ultimate guarantee of the
Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting [s]tates may not be
sued by private individuals in federal court."). The
Supreme Court has recognized that sovereign immunity also
prohibits suits against state officials or agencies that are
effectively suits against a state. See, e.g.,
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663-69 (1974)
(extending sovereign immunity to state officers in their
official capacities); Ford Motor Co. v. Dep't of
Treas., 323 U.S. 459, 463-64 (1945) (barring suits in
which the state is a real party in interest, despite not
being a named defendant). In short, Eleventh Amendment
immunity is not limited to cases in which states ...