Jurisdiction Unclear in Challenge to City’s Enforcement Actions

According to the operators of Hank’s Texas Grill, the City of McKinney and its police officers have been wrongfully harassing the restaurant, its employees, and its customers for the last ten years. In response, the city alleges that Hank’s violates numerous city ordinances. The city filed a plea to the jurisdiction to invoke its governmental immunity. The trial court denied the plea, and the city appealed. Summarizing the recent (and conflicting) string of cases challenging local ordinances, the Court of Appeals concluded that “the Declaratory Judgments Act waives governmental immunity against claims that a statute or ordinance is invalid,” but “does not waive a governmental entity’s immunity against a claim that government actors have violated the law.” Construing Hank’s pleadings, the Court concluded that they did not demonstrate that Hank’s claim was outside the scope of the city’s governmental immunity. However, the pleading also did not demonstrate that the claim was barred by governmental immunity, meaning that Hank’s had to be given the opportunity to amend. The Court also affirmed the trial court’s ruling that Hank’s claim for damages was not barred by immunity to the extent that it was an offset against the city’s own damage claims. Finally, the Court of Appeals rejected the city’s claim that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enjoin its enforcement of state laws and local ordinances, ruling that the pleadings and arguments at this stage of the case were still too unclear to affirmatively demonstrate that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to issue an injunction.

City of McKinney v. Hank’s Restaurant Group, L.P., No. 05-123-01359-CV

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