Md.Code (1974, 2006 Repl.Vol.), § 5-518(c) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article provides that "[a] county board of education may not raise the defense
We shall adopt the facts as set forth in the reported opinion of the Court of Special Appeals. See Zimmer-Rubert v. Board of Ed., 179 Md.App. 589, 947 A.2d 135 (2008). The intermediate appellate court recited the facts as follows:
Zimmer-Rubert, 179 Md.App. at 592-93, 947 A.2d at 137.
The Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court. Zimmer-Rubert, 179 Md.App. at 612, 947 A.2d at 149. In so doing, the intermediate appellate court first reasoned that the Board is an "arm of the state" entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Zimmer-Rubert, 179 Md.App. at 603, 947 A.2d at 143.
In this case, there is no contention that the Board is not a State agency entitled to governmental immunity. See Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429-30, 117 S.Ct. 900, 903-04, 137 L.Ed.2d 55, 60-61 (1997) (holding that only the states themselves, or a state agency or instrumentality that functions as an "arm of the state," may invoke sovereign immunity or the immunity afforded by the Eleventh Amendment (internal quotations omitted)); Condon v. State, 332 Md. 481, 492, 632 A.2d 753, 758 (1993) ("The doctrine [of sovereign immunity] is applicable to the State's agencies and instrumentalities, unless the legislature has explicitly or by implication waived governmental immunity."). We have long considered county school boards to be State agencies rather than independent, local bodies. See, e.g., State v. Board of Education, 346 Md. 633, 635 n. 1, 697 A.2d 1334, 1335 n. 1 (1997) ("The various county boards of education are State agencies."); Board v. Secretary of Personnel, 317 Md. 34, 44 n.5, 562 A.2d 700, 705 n. 5 (1989) ("It is settled that county boards of education are State agencies."); Bd. of Educ. v. P.G. Co. Educators' Ass'n, 309 Md. 85, 95 n. 3, 522 A.2d 931, 936 n. 3 (1987) ("County boards of education are, of course, state agencies and not agencies of the county governments."); Montgomery Co. Ed. Ass'n v. Bd. of Educ., 311 Md. 303, 317, 534 A.2d 980, 987 (1987) (recognizing the local boards as State agencies); McCarthy v. Bd. of Education of A.A. Co., 280 Md. 634, 639-50, 374 A.2d 1135, 1138-43 (1977) (examining the history of Maryland public education from colonial times, through the Constitutions of 1864 and 1867 and the concomitant statutes, to conclude that the Board of Education
The question before this Court is, essentially, whether § 5-518(c) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article waives the Board's Eleventh Amendment immunity as to Zimmer-Rubert's ADEA suit.
The Eleventh Amendment reads: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. CONST. amend. XI. Although the Amendment, by its terms, applies only to suits brought against a state by citizens of another state or foreign state in federal court, the United States Supreme Court has "looked to `history and experience and the established order of things,' rather than `adhering to the mere letter' of the Eleventh Amendment, in determining the scope of the States' constitutional immunity from suit." Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 727, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 2253, 144 L.Ed.2d 636, 661 (1999) (quoting Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 13, 14, 10 S.Ct. 504, 506, 33 L.Ed. 842, 847 (1890)). Thus, for example, the Supreme Court has held that the Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states by their own citizens, Hans, 134 U.S. at 11, 10 S.Ct. at 505, 33 L.Ed. at 845, and by Native-American tribes, Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 47, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1119, 134 L.Ed.2d 252, 261 (1996). In so holding, the Supreme Court "ha[s] understood the Eleventh Amendment to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms: that the States entered the federal system with their sovereignty intact; that the judicial authority in Article III is limited by this sovereignty...." Blatchford v. Native Vill. of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 779, 111 S.Ct. 2578, 2581, 115 L.Ed.2d 686, 694 (1991); see Fed. Mar. Comm'n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743, 754, 122 S.Ct. 1864, 1871, 152 L.Ed.2d 962, 974 (2002) ("[T]he sovereign immunity enjoyed by the States extends beyond the literal text of the Eleventh Amendment.").
The import of Alden extends beyond its specific holding. The case is notable for analyzing the relationship between the broad doctrine of sovereign immunity and the more specific grant of immunity in the Eleventh Amendment. The Supreme Court thus recognized that the doctrine of sovereign immunity predated the ratification of the Eleventh Amendment, which is not an exhaustive expression of the doctrine:
Alden, 527 U.S. at 712-713, 728-29, 742, 119 S.Ct. at 2246-47, 2254, 2260, 144 L.Ed.2d at 652, 662, 670 (citations omitted).
The United States Supreme Court's decision in Alden also emphasized that "a State may waive its sovereign immunity and consent to suit."
(Citations omitted.) See also Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp. v. Feeney, 495 U.S. 299, 307-09, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 1873-74, 109 L.Ed.2d 264, 273-75 (1990) (holding that a venue provision allowing for venue to "be laid within a county or judicial district, established by one of said States or by the United States" constituted a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity in an associated consent-to-suit provision); Fla. Dep't of Health and Rehab. Servs. v. Fla. Nursing Home Ass'n, 450 U.S. 147, 149-50, 101 S.Ct. 1032, 1034, 67 L.Ed.2d 132, 135-36 (1981) (per curiam) (holding that a Florida law providing that the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services "is a `body corporate' with the capacity to `sue and be sued'" was a general waiver of sovereign immunity and did not effect a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity (citation omitted)).
Since Alden, lower courts have indeed recognized a state's immunity from suit in its own courts and the concomitant right to waive such immunity. See, e.g., Erickson v. Board of Governors of State Colls. & Univs. for N.E. Ill. Univ., 207 F.3d 945, 952 (7th Cir.2000) (recognizing that states may "implement a blanket rule of sovereign immunity"); Jacoby v. Ark. Dep't of Educ., 338 Ark. 505, 995 S.W.2d 353, 354 (1999) (ordering rebriefing on the issue of sovereign immunity in light of Alden); Boise Cascade Corp. v. State ex rel. Or. State Bd. of Forestry, 164 Or.App. 114, 991 P.2d 563, 566 (1999) (referring to Alden and, notwithstanding the text of the Eleventh Amendment, considering the defendant's immunity claim); Commonwealth v. Luzik, 259 Va. 198, 524 S.E.2d 871, 878 (2000) (applying Alden and holding that Virginia did not waive its sovereign immunity from FLSA claims brought in state court); Bachmeier v. Hoffman, 1 P.3d 1236, 1240 (Wyo.2000) (noting that Alden recognized the proposition that states have sovereign immunity in an action brought in state court and that states may waive such immunity).
In Maryland, this Court has "long applied the doctrine of sovereign immunity in actions against the State." ARA Health v. Dept. of Public Safety, 344 Md. 85, 91, 685 A.2d 435, 438 (1996) (citing Katz v. Washington Sub. San. Comm'n, 284 Md. 503,
When considering waivers of sovereign immunity, this Court and the Court of Special Appeals have strictly construed such waivers in favor of the sovereign. Lizzi, 156 Md.App. at 9, 845 A.2d at 65 (quoting Dep't of the Army v. Blue Fox, Inc., 525 U.S. 255, 261, 119 S.Ct. 687, 691, 142 L.Ed.2d 718, 725 (1999)); see Magnetti v. University of MD., 402 Md. 548, 565, 937 A.2d 219, 229 (2007) (noting that "this Court must read and `construe legislative dilution of governmental immunity narrowly'") (quoting Stern v. Board of Regents, 380 Md. 691, 720, 846 A.2d 996, 1012-13 (2004)). As such, "[w]hile the General Assembly may waive sovereign immunity either directly or by necessary implication, this Court has emphasized that the dilution of the doctrine should not be accomplished by `judicial fiat.'" ARA Health, 344 Md. at 92, 685 A.2d at 438 (quoting Dep't of Natural Resources v. Welsh, 308 Md. 54, 59, 521 A.2d 313, 315 (1986)); Board v. John K. Ruff, Inc., 278 Md. 580, 590, 366 A.2d 360, 366 (1976) ("[W]hen the General Assembly expressly authorizes suits to be brought against one of the State's agencies, it is the giving of a positive consent and has the effect of waiving sovereign immunity as to that agency within its scope of duties and obligations.").
We had the opportunity to address a potential waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity in State v. Sharafeldin, 382 Md. 129, 854 A.2d 1208 (2004). We analyzed, among other things, the extent to which § 12-201 of the State Government Article waived the State's governmental immunity in contract actions. We recognized that the statute "precludes the State and its agencies from raising the defense of sovereign immunity in a contract action `in a court of the State'" Sharafeldin, 382 Md. at 149, 854 A.2d at 1219. We held that the plain language "in a court of the State" excluded Eleventh Amendment immunity from § 12-201's general waiver of sovereign immunity. Id.
Turning to the instant case, we note that discerning the extent to which § 5-518(c) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article waives the Board's governmental immunity requires a two-part determination. First, applying Maryland law, we must determine whether the statute constitutes a waiver of the Board's general sovereign immunity as to Zimmer-Rubert's ADEA suit. If § 5-518(c) constitutes such a waiver, then we must also determine whether the statute waives the
Nevertheless, we may resort to legislative history to ensure that our plain language interpretation is correct. See Kramer v. Liberty Property, 408 Md. 1, 22, 968 A.2d 120, 132 (2009). "`We avoid a construction of the statute that is unreasonable, illogical, or inconsistent with common sense.'" Walzer v. Osborne, 395 Md. 563, 573, 911 A.2d 427, 432 (2006) (quoting Blake v. State, 395 Md. 213, 224, 909 A.2d 1020, 1026 (2006)).
By its plain language, § 5-518(c) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article waives the defense of sovereign immunity "to any claim of $100,000 or less" (emphasis added). We cannot conclude that such broad and unambiguous language preserves the defense of sovereign immunity as to Zimmer-Rubert's claim, arising pursuant to the ADEA for the amount of $100,000. We thus agree with the Court of Special Appeals' determination that "the words `any claim' cannot reasonably be read to exclude certain categories of claims." Zimmer-Rubert, 179 Md.App. at 612, 947 A.2d at 149; accord Norville, 160 Md.App. at 70, 862 A.2d at 511 ("Under the settled approach to statutory interpretation, the words `any claim' [in § 5-518(c)] cannot reasonably be read to exclude certain categories of claims.").
In addition, reference to legislative history confirms that the words "any claim" in § 5-518(c) mean "all claims." What is currently known as Md.Code (1974, 2006 Repl. Vol.), § 5-518 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article was first introduced in 1971 as House Bill 610. Originally, the House proposed that county school boards carry liability insurance "for personal injury claims." H.B. 610, 373rd Leg., Reg. Sess. (Md.1971). This language, however, was stricken in favor of language requiring "comprehensive liability insurance" (emphasis added). We conclude that such a change exemplifies the intent of the General Assembly to apply § 5-518(c) to all claims, including those for personal injury and alleged employment law violations.
Having concluded that § 5-518(c) embraces all claims, thereby effecting a waiver of sovereign immunity in this case, we also hold that the statute effects a waiver of the Board's Eleventh Amendment immunity. A waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity will be found "where stated `by the most express language or by such overwhelming implications from the text as [would] leave no room for any other reasonable construction.'" Edelman, 415 U.S. at 673, 94 S.Ct. at 1361, 39 L.Ed.2d at 678 (quoting Murray, 213 U.S. at 171, 29 S.Ct. at 464, 53 L.Ed. at 751). A state waives Eleventh Amendment immunity by "specify[ing its] intention to subject itself to suit in federal court." Atascadero, 473 U.S. at 241, 105 S.Ct. at 3146-47, 87 L.Ed.2d at 179. Here, the State specified its intention to subject itself to suit in federal court, as the words "any claim" in § 5-518(c) encompass a claim brought in either state or federal court. Thus, in contrast to the statute at issue in Sharafeldin, 382 Md. at 149, 854 A.2d at 1219, the General Assembly has not demonstrated an intent to preserve its Eleventh Amendment immunity. In other words, as Sharafeldin makes plain, § 5-518(c)
Moreover, our principles of statutory interpretation avoid a result that is illogical or inconsistent with common sense. Walzer, 395 Md. at 573, 911 A.2d at 432 (quoting Blake, 395 Md. at 224, 909 A.2d at 1026). The policy underlying sovereign immunity is to "protect the State from burdensome interference with its governmental functions." Katz, 284 Md. at 507, 397 A.2d at 1030. It would defy logic for the General Assembly to have waived sovereign immunity as to "any claim," thereby allowing all claims, whether in state or federal court, while simultaneously intending to preserve Eleventh Amendment immunity. We therefore conclude that § 5-518(c) of the Court and Judicial Proceeding Article waives the Board's governmental immunity, including its Eleventh Amendment immunity, for all claims in the amount of $100,000 or less.