United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY RURAL WATER DISTRICT NO. 3, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, Plaintiff,
MARY FALLIN, Governor of the State of Oklahoma, in her official capacity, and J. DAVID BURRAGE, Chairman of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, in his official capacity, Defendants.
MILES-LaGRANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, filed July
17, 2016. On July 20, 2016, plaintiff filed its response, and
on August 5, 2016, defendants replied. Based on the
parties' submissions, the Court makes its determination.
15, 2016, plaintiff Pottawatomie County Rural Water District
No. 3 (the “District”) filed this action,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory and
injunctive relief against defendants Mary Fallin (“Gov.
Fallin”), Governor of the State of Oklahoma, and J.
David Burrage (“Burrage”), Chairman of the
Oklahoma Department of Transportation, (collectively
February 18, 1997, the District was formed, pursuant to the
Rural Water, Sewer, Gas and Solid Waste Management Districts
Act (“Rural Water Act”). The District is an
agency of the State of Oklahoma, and its principal office and
place of business is located in Pottawatomie County,
Oklahoma. On August 10, 2001, pursuant to the Rural Water
Act, the District borrowed over $1, 000, 000.00 from the
United States Department of Agriculture
(“USDA”). The District alleges that, pursuant to 7
U.S.C. § 1926(b) (“§ 1926(b)”), the
District has the federal right to be the exclusive water
service provider in all areas for which the District has the
legal right to provide water service. Further, the District
alleges that “the State of Oklahoma, by empowering the
District to borrow money from the USDA, bound the State and
all of its subdivisions, to comply with the provisions of
§ 1926(b).” Compl. ¶ 8.
District alleges that Defendants, acting in furtherance of
and for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation
(“ODOT”), have violated § 1926(b) by
requiring the District to prove to the satisfaction of ODOT
that the District is in fact a rural water district before it
will allow the District to have access to state highways and
rights-of-way for water line construction purposes. The
District further alleges that the requirements imposed by
Defendants include complying with Okla. Stat. tit. 69, §
1401, a statute which is facially not applicable to the
District. The District alleges that Okla. Stat. tit.
82, § 1324.10(A)(8) grants the District the statutory
right to use the State's highways and rights-of-way and
mandates that the State and ODOT concur in the location of
water lines constructed by the District, and that the
State's use of inapplicable statutes is pretext to
interfere with the water service provided by the District and
directly results in reducing the customer pool of the
District, in violation of § 1926(b).
now move for this Court to dismiss this matter on the
following basis: (1) Defendants contend that Gov. Fallin
should be dismissed from this action as she has no connection
to the acts and statutes the District alleges were violated
and, therefore, pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, is immune
from suit in this matter; (2) the Court should abstain from
hearing this matter under the Younger Abstention
Doctrine; and (3) this matter should be dismissed,
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), as the
District has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
Eleventh Amendment immunity
contend that Gov. Fallin should be dismissed from this matter
as she has no connection to the acts and statutes complained
of and, therefore, is immune from suit in this matter,
pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment. Specifically, Defendants
contend that the District relies on Gov. Fallin's general
authority, pursuant to the Oklahoma Constitution article VI,
section 8, which states:
The Governor shall cause the laws of the State to be
faithfully executed, and shall conduct in person or in such
manner as may be prescribed by law, all intercourse and
business of the State with other states and with the United
States, and [s]he shall be a conservator of the peace
throughout the State.
Okla. Const. art. VI, § 8, to assert its claim that Gov.
Fallin violated § 1926(b). The District contends that
the Ex parte Young exception applies in this matter
and, therefore, this suit against Gov. Fallin is appropriate.
Eleventh Amendment prohibits suits against states, including
state officials in their official capacity. See Muscogee
(Creek) Nation v. Okla. Tax. Com'n, 611 F.3d 1222,
1227 (10th Cir. 2010). The United States Supreme Court
recognized an exception barring Eleventh Amendment immunity
when a state official is sued in his or her official capacity
to enjoin an ongoing violation of federal law. See
Id. at 1232 (quoting Ex parte Young, 209 U.S.
123, 159-60 (1908)). To determine when the Ex parte
Young exception applies “a court need only conduct
a straightforward inquiry into whether the complaint alleges
an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly
characterized as prospective.” Id. (internal
quotations and citations omitted).
carefully reviewed the parties' submissions, the Court
finds that the District has sufficiently alleged facts
barring Gov. Fallin from exercising her right to Eleventh
Amendment immunity in this matter. The District alleges that
Gov. Fallin, along with Burrage, has violated § 1926(b)
by imposing new extra-statutory requirements on the District
which has resulted in an interference in the operations of
the District and reduction of the District's customer
pool. Further, the District seeks prospective injunctive and
declaratory relief. As the District has alleged that Gov.
Fallin has violated § 1926(b), a federal law, and seeks
injunctive and ...