Legal Memorandum: Sovereign Immunity from a Suit in a Federal Court

Issue: Does the Limitation of Liability Set Forth in La. R.S. 13.5106 Apply in a matter with a City Marshal in Shreveport, Louisiana?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Limitation of liability; Sovereign immunity; Suit in a federal court
Jurisdiction: Federal, Louisiana
Cited Cases: 919 F.2d 277; 655 F. Supp. 560
Cited Statutes: La. R.S. § 13.5106; La. R.S. § 13.5106(A); 42 U.S.C. § 1983; § 13.5106(A); La. R.S. § 13.5016(B)-(D)
Date: 05/01/2010

One portion of La. R.S. § 13.5106 states, “No suit against the state or a state agency or political subdivision shall be instituted in any court other than a Louisiana state court.”  La. R.S. § 13.5106(A).*FN1  The statute has been explained as a statement that the State of Louisiana has not waived its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from suit in federal court (except in tort and contract suits).  Anderson v. Phelps, 655 F. Supp. 560, 564 (M.D. La. 1985).  The State is immune from suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  Id. at 564 (granting motion for summary judgment as to federal civil rights claims).

Presumably, by the plain language of this provision, the City of Shreveport would be immune from suit in federal court; put differently, the federal court would not have jurisdiction over a plaintiff’s claims against the City (or the City Marshal in his official capacity).  However, there has been a judicial discussion about the applicability of § 13.5106(A) to local governments, such that the answer to the question whether this provision applies to bar the suit against the City in federal court is not entirely clear.

In In re Allied-Signal, Inc., 919 F.2d 277, 280 n.4 (5th Cir. 1990), the federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that § 13.5106(A) did not preclude a cause of action in federal court against a Louisiana state political subdivision, when federal jurisdiction is based on diversity.  “In Allied-Signal, […]

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