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Atlantic Legal States Found. v. Babbitt

Citation: 30 ELR 20361
No. No. 99-CV-1292, 83 F. Supp. 2d 344/(N.D.N.Y., 02/03/2000)

The court holds that Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity bars an environmental group's suit against a state environmental agency challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grant of a migratory bird depredation permit to the state agency. The court first holds that the state environmental agency is entitled to sovereign immunity. The agency is a department of the state created to implement the state's environmental policies and, therefore, a suit against the agency is a suit against the state. No exceptions to sovereign immunity apply, and the agency did not waive its sovereign immunity either expressly or implicitly by applying for the depredation permit. Additionally, as a treaty, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) does not override the agency's sovereign immunity. Similarly, the state's concession of control to the federal government of regulated species under the MBTA in its state conservation law is of no import because the state could not do otherwise. If the state enacted a conservation law that usurped the federal government's domain as defined by the MBTA, the federal government could file suit to gain redress. Further, the sovereign immunity bar applies to monetary and equitable claims alike. The court next holds that the environmental group may amend its complaint to name the agency commissioner as an individual. Sovereign immunity does not bar certain actions for injunctive or declaratory relief against state officers in their individual capacity for unconstitutional or wrongful conduct attributable to that officer.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Carl Dworkin
Law Offices of Carl Dworkin
6281 Johnston Rd., Albany NY 12203
(518) 452-5442

Counsel for Defendant
Lawrence A. Rappoport
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330