Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

City of Austin v. Paxton

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 4, 2019

CITY OF AUSTIN, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
KEN PAXTON, Attorney General of the State of Texas; TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION, Defendants - Appellants

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

          Before CLEMENT, ELROD, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         The 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.

         I.

         The 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).

         In 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).

         In 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. § 250.007(c).

         The 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.

         The 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.

         II.

         We 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).

         III.

         In most 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.