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United States v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist.

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20123
Nos. No. 08-3399, (8th Cir., 06/09/2009)

The Eighth Circuit, in a CWA enforcement action filed by the United States and the state of Missouri against a water district, affirmed a lower court decision denying the state's motion to dismiss the district's counterclaims and to strike its affirmative defenses claiming financial inability to comply with the Act's requirements. The state argued that the water district's requested actions were barred by sovereign immunity and the Eleventh Amendment. But by choosing to join in the CWA enforcement action as a plaintiff, the state waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Although CWA §309(e) compels a state to become a party in federal court whenever a municipality in that state is a party to a civil action brought by the United States, it does not compel the state to take any action that would waive its sovereign immunity. The filing of a complaint in a federal district court is the quintessential means of invoking its jurisdiction. There is no indication in the record that Missouri was reluctant to proceed as co-plaintiff since it participated in filing the original complaint with the United States rather than being forcibly joined in the litigation at a later time.