Texas Department of Insurance v. Reconveyance Services, Inc., No. 07-0786 (Tex. Mar. 12, 2010) (per curiam) (docket and briefs)

Reconveyance Services brought suit seeking a declaration that a fee imposed by TDI was outside the scope of Texas law. The court of appeals concluded that this claim against the state was within the trial court’s jurisdiction. The Texas Supreme Court held that it was not properly framed and ordered it dismissed.

In a per curiam opinion, the Texas Supreme Court held that this claim was in the nature of an ultra vires claim and thus had to be leveled at state officials in their official capacities — not at the agency for which they worked.

Those familiar with the Ex parte Young doctrine (case wikipedia) in federal courts will recognize the jurisdictional difference between suing the state directly and suing a state official. Texas immunity law draws a similar distinction.

Citing its recent decision in City of El Paso v. Heinrich, 284 S.W.3d 366 (Tex. 2009) (blog post), the Court held that this suit was improper because it named only the agency as a defendant and was thus barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Texas Supreme Court reversed and rendered a judgment of dismissal. (( The first footnote also explains that “Reconveyance has filed neither response nor brief in this Court.” ))