RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN A. JACKSON, Chief Judge.
Before the Court is
According to Hall, the current Judicial Election Plan discriminates against African Americans because African American voters, who make up the majority of Section 1 and the City population, are allotted only two judges, while White voters, who make up the majority of Section 2 but a minority of the City population, are allotted three judges. Hall further alleges that the Defendants' refusal to reapportion the City Court judges and/or redraw the geographic boundaries of the Divisions in accordance with the City of Baton Rouge's 2010 Census demographic data is an intentional attempt to dilute the votes of African Americans.
As to the instant motion, the Legislature seeks an order from this Court dismissing Hall's claims against it, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The Legislature contends that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims brought against it, as the Legislature is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity
Hall opposes the motion and argues that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, as the Legislature is not immune from suit. According to Hall, the Legislature is a necessary party that is capable of granting the relief he seeks. Hall further contends that his Section 1983 claims are not proscribed, and that he is entitled to attorney's fees should he prevail. Hall also argues that he has sufficiently pled a claim upon which relief can be granted under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. He further contends that he has sufficiently pled claims upon which relief can be granted under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Thus, the Legislature's motion to dismiss should be denied.
II. Standard of Review
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; without jurisdiction conferred by statute, they lack the power to adjudicate claims. In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig., 668 F.3d 281, 286-287 (5th Cir.2012) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994); Stockman v. FEC, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir.1998)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1), a claim is "properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate" the claim. Id. (quoting Home Builders Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Benton v. U.S., 960 F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir.1992). A complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) if it fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. City of Clinton v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir.2010) ("Under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, all well-pleaded facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff...."); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir.1996). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to `state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, however, "the court is permitted to look at evidence in the record beyond simply those facts alleged in the complaint and its proper attachments." Ambraco, Inc. v. Bossclip B.V., 570 F.3d 233, 238 (5th Cir.2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1111, 130 S.Ct. 1054, 175 L.Ed.2d 883 (2010); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (stating that a court ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion may evaluate "(1) the complaint alone, (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.)"
However, "[t]he burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction." Celestine v. TransWood Inc., 467 Fed. Appx. 317, 318 (5th Cir.2012) (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). "Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist." Id. (quoting Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). A pleading stating a claim for relief must contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction[.]" Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)). In federal question cases, the party must demonstrate a non-frivolous claim based on federal law. Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939). When a district court finds it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, its determination is not on the merits of the case, and
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
In support of its motion, the Legislature contends that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and that it is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, legislative immunity, and qualified immunity.
The Eleventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides as follows:
U.S. CONST. amend. XI. This language expressly encompasses not only suits brought against a state by citizens of another state, but suits against a state by citizens of that same state. See Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890); Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 276, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986); see also Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974). "A state's Eleventh Amendment 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). In general, therefore, a suit in which the state or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment. Lewis v. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 665 F.3d 625, 630 (5th Cir.2011) (citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900 (1984)). This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought. Id.
The Eleventh Amendment also bars a suit against a state official when "the state is a real, substantial party in interest." Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101-02, 104 S.Ct. 900 (citations omitted). Thus, the general rule is that relief sought against an officer is in fact against the sovereign if the decree would operate against the latter. And, as when the state itself is named as the defendant, a suit against state officials that is in fact a suit against a state is barred regardless of whether it seeks damages or injunctive relief. Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101-02, 104 S.Ct. 900 (citations omitted); see also Okpalobi v. Foster, 244 F.3d 405, 412 (5th Cir.2001) (plaintiff cannot evade Eleventh Amendment immunity by naming an individual state officer as a defendant in lieu of the state itself).
A state's immunity from suit is not absolute, however, and the Supreme Court has recognized several situations in which an individual may sue a state in federal court. Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 662 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir.2011). First, Congress may authorize such a suit in the exercise of its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.
1. Congress' Authorization of Lawsuits Against the State in Federal Court
First, the Court notes that Congress has abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under the Voting Rights Act. See, e.g., Mixon v. State of Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 398-99 (6th Cir.1999); Reaves v. United States DOJ, 355 F.Supp.2d 510, 515 (D.D.C.2005) ("it is reasonable to conclude that Congress, in passing the Voting Rights Act, effected a valid abrogation of state sovereign immunity."); see also City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 518, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997) (noting that the Supreme Court has "concluded that other measures protecting voting rights are within Congress' power to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, despite the burdens those measures placed on the States.") (citing Katzenbach, 383 U.S. at 308, 86 S.Ct. 803). Thus, Hall's claims against the Legislature under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are not proscribed by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity.
As it relates to Hall's Section 1983 claims, it is uncontested that Congress has not abrogated the states' sovereign immunity for claims arising under Section 1983. Inyo County, Cal. v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony, 538 U.S. 701, 709, 123 S.Ct. 1887, 155 L.Ed.2d 933 (2003).
2. The State's Waiver of Eleventh Amendment Immunity
It is also uncontested that the State of Louisiana has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court. Champagne v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, 188 F.3d 312, 314 (5th Cir.1999) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979)); La. R.S. § 13:5106(a). Thus, the remaining question is whether the Ex parte Young doctrine applies to Hall's Section 1983 claims against the Legislature.
Ex parte Young Doctrine and Hall's Section 1983 Claims
As noted above, in Ex parte Young, the Supreme Court carved out an exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441. In that ruling, the Court permitted suits against state officials in their official capacity in order to enjoin enforcement of an unconstitutional state statute. Okpalobi, 244 F.3d at 411 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441). This exception applies when the state official:
Hall's Original Complaint alleges that the Legislature "convenes and drafts state laws of Louisiana" and "has joint authority with the City of Baton Rouge over all judicial redistricting and the allotment number of judges for City Court." (Doc. 1, ¶ 16; Doc. 76, ¶¶ 5, 13) Under its authority, the Legislature passed into law the 1993 Judicial Election Plan. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 23-24.) According to Hall, the current Election Plan can be revised by the Legislature to remedy the alleged federal violations. (Doc. 1, ¶ 50.) However, according to Hall, leaders of the Legislature have "repeatedly reneged on promises, commitments, or overtures to revamp state courts... despite having been asked by Louisiana citizens and other elected and/or public officials; showing and evidencing no intent to address or remedy" the alleged federal violations. (Doc. 74, ¶¶ 30, 33.) Hall further alleges that, despite making adjustments to other state court election plans, the Legislature "has refused irrationally to redistrict the ... City Court of Baton Rouge, evidencing invidious discrimination...." (Doc. 76, ¶ 58.)
Even when accepting all well pled facts as true and viewing them in a light most favorable to Hall, it cannot be said that he has sufficiently alleged that the Legislature has some connection with the enforcement of the 1993 Judicial Election Plan; or that they are specifically charged with the duty to enforce the Plan and are threatening to exercise that duty. See Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 157, 28 S.Ct. 441 ("[i]n making an officer of the State a party defendant in a suit to enjoin the enforcement of an act alleged to be unconstitutional... such officer must have some connection with the enforcement of the act, or else it is merely making him a party as a representative of the State, and thereby attempting to make the State a party."). Indeed, Hall's Original Complaint and subsequent Amending and Supplemental Complaints merely allege that the Legislature has failed to pass into law a revised Judicial Election Plan. Therefore, the Court concludes that the Ex parte Young exception does not apply, and that Hall's Section 1983 claims against the Legislature are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Absolute Legislative Immunity
In support of its motion, the Legislature argues that it is immune from suit pursuant to legislative immunity. The Legislature contends that its alleged actions fall within the "sphere of legitimate legislative activity" set out by the Supreme Court in Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 U.S. 82, 87 S.Ct. 1425, 18 L.Ed.2d 577 (1967), thereby making it absolutely immune to civil suits for damages. Hall did not present any argument in opposition.
1. Whether State Legislators Are Protected by Absolute Legislative Immunity When Sued in Their Official Capacities
It is well established that state legislatures acting within the scope of their legislative duties are immune from civil suits for damages. See, e.g., Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 71 S.Ct. 783, 95 L.Ed. 1019 (1951); Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 U.S. 82, 85, 87 S.Ct. 1425, 18 L.Ed.2d 577 (1967) (stating that the purpose of legislative immunity, which is derived from the Speech or Debate Clause of
Notwithstanding arguably contradictory dicta in Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166-67, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985), the Fifth Circuit's holding in Minton v. St. Bernard Parish School Board, 803 F.2d 129, 134 (5th Cir.1986), and opinions in other circuits in which the courts have held that legislator-defendants are not entitled to legislative immunity when they are sued in their official capacities only
In addition to being consistent with prior Supreme Court opinions and other circuit court opinions, this Court's holding is also consistent with the acknowledged purposes of legislative immunity. In Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 71 S.Ct. 783, 95 L.Ed. 1019 (1951), the Supreme Court noted that legislative immunity "would be of little value if [state legislators] could be subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a judgment against them based on a jury's speculation as to motives." Id., at 377, 71 S.Ct. 783. Indeed, Courts have long recognized that lawsuits brought against lawmakers
In Minton, the Fifth Circuit also noted that "official immunity doctrines are premised upon the concern that the threat of personal liability may deter government officials from executing their offices with the decisiveness and good faith judgment required for the public good." Id., 803 F.2d at 134. Although the Fifth Circuit concluded that official immunity doctrines do not bar suits in which officials are sued only in their official capacities, given the facts at issue here, today's holding is not inconsistent with the purpose and spirit of absolute legislative immunity. In sum, the Court concludes that the defense of legislative immunity may be asserted by the Legislature in this case.
2. Whether the Legislature's Alleged Acts Were Functionally Legislative
However, "not all actions taken by officials with legislative duties are protected by legislative immunity — only those duties that are functionally legislative." Hughes v. Tarrant County, 948 F.2d 918, 920 (5th Cir.1991). "In other words, only legislative acts are entitled to absolute immunity, while non-legislative or administrative acts are only entitled to qualified immunity." Bryan v. City of Madison, 130 F.Supp.2d 798, 806 (S.D.Miss.1999) (citing Hughes, 948 F.2d at 920).
In Hughes, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit noted that two different tests may be used to determine whether the actions of a legislator are legislative duties or administrative duties:
Hughes, 948 F.2d at 921 (citation omitted).
Here, Hall alleges that, despite receiving the 2010 U.S. Census data, the Legislature failed to pass amendments to the 1993 Judicial Election Plan during Regular Session 2004 and Regular Session 2006. (Doc. 1, ¶ 57.) Hall further alleges that the Legislature has the authority to approve, revise, and/or redact the current Judicial Election Plan to ensure that it complies with federal law. (Doc. 76, ¶¶ 13, 15.) Thus, according to Hall, the Legislature's failure to do so is in contravention of federal law. (Doc. 76, ¶ 12.)
Considering the guidelines set out in Hughes, the Court concludes that the Legislature's alleged acts were functionally legislative. Indeed, Hall does not allege that the Legislature's failure to pass amendments to the 1993 Judicial Election Plan was based on facts specific to individual persons only, and not legislative facts. Nor does Hall allege that the Legislature's decision singled out an individual. Rather, his Complaint repeatedly alleges that the Legislature's failure to act continues to impact him and a proposed class of similarly situated African American voters in the City of Baton Rouge.
While it is not clear from Hall's pleadings, it appears that Hall's Section 1983 claims include: (1) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, made applicable to the States by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan infringes Hall's fundamental right to vote, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (5) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the Fifteenth Amendment; (6) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and (7) a Section 1983 claim that the 1993 Judicial Election Plan violates the "democratic principles of majority rule and individualistic egalitarianism" related to the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.