Harris v. Jackson County, Missouri
ORDER granting 10 defendant's motion to dismiss case. Signed on 6/23/15 by District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. (Enss, Rhonda)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
BARRY L. HARRIS,
16TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF MISSOURI,
Case No. 15-0012-CV-W-FJG
Pending before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10).
Defendant indicates that sovereign immunity bars plaintiff’s lawsuit.
Plaintiff filed the pending action on January 7, 2015, naming Jackson County,
Missouri as the sole defendant. On March 6, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to amend the
complaint, substituting the 16th Judicial Circuit of Missouri as defendant. On March 26,
2015, the Court granted the motion for leave to amend, and on March 30, 2015, plaintiff
filed his amended complaint.
In the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that he is employed by the 16th
Judicial Circuit of Missouri. Plaintiff brings a claim on behalf of himself and all others
similarly situated against the defendant for unpaid straight time and overtime
compensation in violation of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., including 29 U.S.C. §
297(a)(1). Plaintiff claims that he and other execution deputies and/or process servers
worked after their clock out time, into weekend and evening hours performing their job
duties for defendant. On April 7, 2015, defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss.
When ruling on a defendant’s motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all
of the factual allegations in the complaint. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555-56 (2007). A plaintiff need not provide specific facts in support of his allegations.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). But the plaintiff must include sufficient
factual information to provide grounds on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to
relief above a speculative level. Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549
(8th Cir. 2008). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This requires a plaintiff
to plead more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of
the cause of action will not do. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must contain
either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to
sustain recovery under some viable legal theory. Id. at 562 (quoted case omitted). The
standard simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery
will reveal evidence of the claim. Id. at 556.
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10)
The 16th Judicial Circuit of Missouri moves to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint due to
sovereign immunity. Defendant indicates that (1) sovereign immunity applies to FLSA
claims; (2) Missouri has not waived sovereign immunity for FLSA claims; and (3) the
16th Judicial Circuit is an “arm of the state” for purposes of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff
contends in his suggestions in opposition that the 16th Judicial Circuit is not an “arm of
the state,” and therefore sovereign immunity should not apply.
The guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that non-consenting states may not
be sued by private individuals in federal court. Bd. of Tr. Of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531
U.S. 356, 363 121S.Ct. 955, 962, 148 L.Ed.2d 866 (2001). The Constitution inherently
recognizes that States are immune from suit by individuals and that the judicial power of
the United States cannot extend to suits against individual States unless (1) the action
is brought by the United States or a different state; (2) the action is based on a law that
Congress enacted pursuant to its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment; or (3)
the individual state defendant consented to the lawsuit. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706,
755-56 (1999) (further holding that sovereign immunity bars FLSA claims against a nonconsenting state, id.). The Eleventh Amendment “encompasses not only actions where
the state is actually named as a defendant, but also certain actions against state
instrumentalities.” See Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429-430, 117 S.
Ct. 900, 903, 137 L.Ed.2d 55 (1997).
As for the issue of whether a Missouri Circuit Court is an arm of the state under
the Eleventh Amendment, the Eighth Circuit has already spoken. In McKlintic v. 36th
Judicial Circuit Court, 508 F.3d 875 (8th Cir. 2007), the Eighth Circuit found in the
context of a Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) claim, that Eleventh Amendment
immunity shielded the 36th Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri from suit. Id. at 877
(affirming McKlintic v. 36th Judicial Circuit Court, 464 F.Supp.2d 871 (E.D. Mo. 2006)).
In that matter, the District Court found that the 36th Judicial Circuit Court exists pursuant
to Article V, § 1 of the Missouri Constitution, which provides for the judicial department
and which states that there shall be circuit courts, and therefore the Judicial Circuit is an
entity of the State of Missouri. McKlintic v. 36th Judicial Circuit Court, 464 F. Supp. 2d
871, 875 (E.D. Mo. 2006). Similarly, the Eighth Circuit previously found that Missouri
courts are immune from Section 1983 suits because they are protected by state
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Harris v. Missouri Court of Appeals, Western
Dist., 787 F.2d 427, 429 (8th Cir. 1986) (citing Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782
(1978)). Plaintiff’s factual contentions to the contrary (that factual issues exist as to
whether he was employed by the state, the county, or another political subdivision) were
all considered in McKlintic and rejected by the District Court.
Therefore, on the facts presented in plaintiff’s complaint, the Court finds that
plaintiff is employed by the 16th Judicial Circuit, and pursuant to prior Eighth Circuit
precedent, the Judicial Circuits in the State of Missouri are deemed to be arms of the
state in terms of Eleventh Amendment immunity. The three exceptions to Eleventh
Amendment immunity are not at question in this case, because the parties do not
dispute that (1) the plaintiff is an individual, not the United States or another state; (2)
the FLSA is a regular federal law, not a law enacted by Congress pursuant to its power
under the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) the State of Missouri has not consented to
the filing of FLSA actions. Therefore, sovereign immunity acts as a bar to plaintiff’s
Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 10) must be GRANTED.
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss (Doc. No.
10) is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: June 23, 2015
Kansas City, Missouri
S/ FERNANDO J. GAITAN, JR.
Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr.
United States District Judge
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