Declaratory Judgment claims are improper against governmental entity if they only seek a declaration of rights under a statute

 

Roal Global Corporation v City of Dallas, 05-14-01049-CV, (Tex. App. –Dallas, May 22, 2015).

This is an interlocutory appeal from the granting of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction in a case involving an interpretation of the Tax Code which the court of appeals affirmed. The main issue is whether the declaratory judgment claims are permitted since no challenge to an ordinance or statute exists.

Roal Global alleges it purchased two properties from the City which the City acquired through tax foreclosure but the City subsequently asserted Roal Global owed the outstanding property taxes. Appellant sued the City which responded with a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court granted the plea and Roal Global appealed.

Roal Global was essentially seeking a declaration of its rights and status under sections of the Tax Code by asserting the City should have applied the sale proceeds to the back taxes. However, the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act does not waive the government’s immunity from a suit seeking a declaration of rights under a statute or that government actors violated the law, only that a statute or ordinance is invalid. As a result the plea was properly granted.  And since this is an interlocutory order and other parties remain, once the stay under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §51.014(b) is lifted, Roal Global can add ultra-vires claims if it wishes. But there is no need to allow suit against the entity to continue and no need to allow them to replead against such entity.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Opinion by Justice Fillmore, Justice Myers, and Justice Evans. Memorandum opinion by Justice Myers. Attorneys for the Appellee are Warren M.S. Emst, Barbara E. Rosenberg, James B. Pinson.  Attorney for Appellant is Simeon Coker.