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Rowlands v. Pointe Mouillee Shooting Club

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21167
Nos. 94-74463, 959 F. Supp. 422/(E.D. Mich., 03/13/1997)

The court holds that the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars a Michigan resident's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The court first holds that the Eleventh Amendment applies to the DNR as a defendant in this case because plaintiff alleges that he has been injured as a result of lead contamination from pellets and target debris at a shooting range on land leased by the DNR. Under Michigan law, the DNR, "on behalf of the people of the state," may buy, sell, exchange, or condemn land. Although the Eleventh Amendment does not explicitly apply to a citizen suing his or her own state, the amendment has been held to bar federal jurisdiction in such cases. Congress may abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity, but Congress did not do so by enacting RCRA. Even though plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, not money damages, the relief sought by a plaintiff suing a state is irrelevant to the question whether the suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The court rejects plaintiff's argument that Michigan has consented to be sued by individuals in federal court. The cases he cites are concerned with Michigan's consent to suit in its own courts, and a state's general waiver of sovereign immunity is not enough to waive the immunity guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment. Finally, because the Eleventh Amendment bar also applies to pendant claims, the court dismisses plaintiff's pendant claims against the DNR.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Donnelly W. Hadden
301 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor MI 48104
(313) 741-5050

Counsel for Defendant
M. Carol Bambery, Gen. Counsel
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
2101 Wood St., P.O. Box 30235, Lansing MI 48909
(517) 371-1041