plea to the jurisdiction denied | plea to the jurisdiction generally | appellate review of rulings on jurisdictional
pleas | sovereign immunity | mootness | lack of standing | opportunity to amend pleadings
WHAT IS A PLEA TO THE JURISDICTION IN TEXAS COURTS?
"A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea, the purpose of which is to defeat a cause of action without
regard to whether the claims asserted have merit." Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547,
554 (Tex. 2000). The plea challenges the trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction over the cause of
action. Tex. Parks & Wildlife Dep't v. Morris, 129 S.W.3d 804, 807 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2004,
no pet.). Whether a trial court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law. Tex. Dep't of Parks &
Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004); Morris, 129 S.W.3d at 807. Accordingly, we
review a trial court's ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction de novo. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226; Morris,
129 S.W.3d at 807.
The plaintiff has the burden to plead facts affirmatively showing that the trial court has jurisdiction. Tex. Ass'n
of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 446 (Tex. 1993); Univ. of N. Tex. v. Harvey, 124 S.W.3d 216,
220 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2003, pet. denied). If a plea to the jurisdiction challenges the existence of
jurisdictional facts, we consider relevant evidence submitted by the parties when necessary to resolve the
jurisdictional issues raised, even where those facts may implicate the merits of the case. City of Waco v.
Kirwan, 298 S.W.3d 618, 622 (Tex. 2008) (citing Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 227); see Bland Indep. Sch. Dist., 34
S.W.3d at 555. If the evidence creates a fact issue as to jurisdiction, then it is for the fact-finder to decide. City
of Waco, 298 S.W.3d at 622; Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 227-28. "However, if the relevant evidence is undisputed
or fails to raise a fact question on the jurisdictional issue, [we rule] on the plea to the jurisdiction as a matter of
law." Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 228.
PLEA TO THE JURISDICTION - DENIED - CASES
Generally, a party can maintain a suit to determine its rights without legislative permission as long as damages
are not sought. Federal Sign v. Texas Southern University, 951 S.W.2d 401, 404 (Tex. 1997). Here, the Trust
argues that the State is acting without legal or statutory authority in claiming title to the sand and gravel
because the waterway is not navigable. So too does it seek declaratory relief to adjudicate whether the river is
navigable and, if it is not, injunctive relief to prevent further interference with its use of same. A declaratory
judgment action seeking the determination of a disputed fact issue, to wit: whether the Salt Fork of the Red
River is a navigable waterway as it passes through the Trust's property, is not a suit against the State that
implicates sovereign immunity. Although it may have the collateral consequence of resolving a factual dispute
that impacts a claim being made by the State, it is not an action that is in essence one for the recovery of
money from the State or for determination of title; therefore, legislative permission to prosecute it is
unnecessary. See Cobb v. Harrington, 144 Tex. 360, 190 S.W.2d 709, 712-13 (1945) (in which the court was
asked to determine by declaratory judgment whether the parties were motor carriers as defined by the tax
statute which the court found not to be a suit against the state). We voice no opinion on any other cause of
action within the live pleading, however.
Accordingly, we cannot say that the trial court erred in denying the Department's plea. Additionally, the order
denying that plea is affirmed.
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT v. THE SAWYER TRUST; from Donley County; 7th district
(07‑06‑00487‑CV, ___ SW3d ___, 08‑22‑07)
This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of a plea to the jurisdiction filed by the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Department. We affirm.
STATE OF TEXAS v. FIESTA MART, INC.; from Harris County; 14th district
(14-06-00826-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 07-03-07, pet. denied April 2008)(condemnation, inverse condemnation
claim, impaired access, relocation benefit, exhaustion of administrative remedies, lease holder)
The State of Texas brings this interlocutory appeal from a county court decision denying its plea to the
jurisdiction. In five issues, the State complains that the court erred in denying its plea to the jurisdiction
because (1) Fiesta, as a lessee of the property, does not have an ownership interest in the property being
seized, (2) Fiesta cannot recover lost profits because it has not alleged impairment of access, and (3)
Fiesta has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies in seeking relocation benefits. We affirm.