United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss. [R. 3; R. 4.] The Eleventh Amendment to the
Constitution protects states against suits from individuals
and protection of this sovereignty is nearly absolute.
Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 81, explained the doctrine
It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be
amenable to the suit of an individual without its consent.
This is the general sense and the general practice of
mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of
sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every state
in the Union. Unless, therefore, there is a surrender of this
immunity in the plan of the convention, it will remain with
the states, and the danger intimated must be merely ideal.
(quoted by Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 12 (1890);
Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 716 (1999).) Here, the
Eleventh Amendment protects the Commonwealth of Kentucky from
suit. Accordingly, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [R. 3;
R 4.] are GRANTED.
are a lot of Plaintiffs in this case. They are all residents
of Kentucky. They bring this suit individually and as
representatives of a class greater than 146, 000 persons who
are current and retired teachers in Kentucky public schools.
[R. 1-1 at 5.] The Defendants are Governor Matthew Bevin in
his official capacity and both the President of the Senate,
Robert Stivers, and the Speaker of the House Representatives,
now Jeff Hoover, in their official capacities. [R. 1.]
their complaint, Plaintiffs allege various Constitutional
claims against the Defendants related to the failure of the
parties to adequately fund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement
System “resulting in an unfunded liability in excess of
$24.43 billion dollars ending in the fiscal year June 30,
2015, thus creating a decline in KTRS's funded ratio of
less than 42% . . . of pension benefits it owes to its
members.” [R. 1-1 at 8.] The parties do not disagree as
to the dire financial nature of KTRS. [R. 3-1 at 2.] Neither
does the Court.
Defendants indicated [see R. 3-1 at 2], Plaintiffs
make three complaints, though their precise causes of action
are difficult to ascertain. For example, in their third
complaint, Plaintiffs cite no statute or section of either
the Federal or State Constitution, only stating that they are
“threatened with irreparable injury to their retirement
benefits.” [R. 1-1 at 9.] After combing the Complaint,
the Court has ascertained alleged violations of the following
statutes and sections of the United States and Kentucky
Constitutions: violation of KRS 161.420 and 161.714;
violation of Article 1, section 10 of the United States
Constitution; violation of Section 19 of the Kentucky
Constitution; and violation of 14th Amendment rights pursuant
to 18 U.S.C § 1983. [See R. 1-1.]
January 3, 2017, this case was removed to this Court.
[See R. 1.] Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss,
which are now ripe for review. [R. 3; R. 4.]
Court's authority to resolve the matters in this case
hinges on the applicability of the Eleventh Amendment, which
reads, “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall
not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity,
commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by
Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any
Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. In general,
states are immune from claims brought against them by private
persons in federal court. See, e.g., Seminole Tribe of
Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996); U.S. CONST.
amend. XI. The Eleventh Amendment protects states against all
types of claims, “whether for injunctive, declaratory
or monetary relief.” Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of
Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376,
381 (6th Cir. 1993); see also McCormick v. Miami
Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 661 (6th Cir. 2012). States are
protected by the Eleventh Amendment even “when only
individual state officials are the nominal defendants but the
state is the real, substantial party in interest.”
Hall v. Med. Coll. of Ohio at Toledo, 742 F.2d 299,
301 (6th Cir. 1984); see Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d
802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) (“Individuals sued in their
official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they
represent); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049
(6th Cir. 1994) (“A suit against an individual in his
official capacity is the equivalent of a suit against the
governmental entity.”); Will v. Michigan Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)
(“Obviously, state officials literally are persons. But
a suit against a state official in his or her official
capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a
suit against the official's office.”).
Plaintiffs do not pretend that the individuals named in this
lawsuit will personally rectify the shortfalls of KTRS with
their personal funds, but instead the relief they seek will
“involve substantial expenditures from the public funds
of the state.” Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S.
651, 665 (1974). When “the action is in essence one for
the recovery of ...