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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Several current and former employees of the Nueces County Sheriff’s Department sued the county for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Nueces County filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court denied. The appeals court remanded with directions to grant the motion based on 11th Amendment immunity. The employees appeal. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded to the trial court. The court finds two settled principles within 11th Amendment jurisprudence: First, federal courts have no jurisdiction over federal or state law claims against a state or state agency unless 11th Amendment immunity has been expressly waived by the state or abrogated by Congress pursuant to proper constitutional authority. Second, 11th Amendment immunity protects non-consenting states from being sued in their own courts for federal law claims. The court agrees with the employees that Nueces County is not the state; it is not an arm of the state, either, and therefore cannot claim 11th Amendment immunity. Though the appeals court found that the county was an arm of the state, the court finds that the appeals court “confused the character of counties for purposes of the immunity doctrines under Texas law with the treatment of a county for purposes of Eleventh Amendment immunity.” Federal law controls the treatment of a county for purposes of 11th Amendment immunity. Examining that law, the court finds that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that neither counties nor cities are arms of the state entitled to protection under 11th Amendment immunity. “We hold that Texas counties, authorized to exercise the aforementioned powers, possess sufficient indicia of independence that they are not arms of the state for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment.” OPINION:Per curiam.

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