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Wynne v. Klein

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20229
Nos. 03-11-00574, (Tex. App., 10/31/2012)

A Texas appellate court held that sovereign immunity bars an individual's lawsuit against the board members of a local reclamation district claiming that their activities caused a lake to be substantially drained during 2008 and for most of the years 2009 through 2011. As a governmental agency and political subdivision of Texas, sovereign immunity extends not only to the reclamation district but also to its board members acting in their official capacities. To fall within the ultra vires exception to sovereign immunity, the lawsuit must not complain of a government officer's exercise of discretion but rather must allege, and ultimately prove, that the officer acted without legal authority or failed to perform a purely ministerial act. Here, none of the complained of activities constitute an ultra vires act. The activities that relate to the operation of power plants, the sale of water to a nuclear plant, and the sale of water to downstream users for non-irrigation purposes are permitted by the Texas Constitution. In addition, the members' decision to allow water to flow into a bay and its estuaries in volumes greater than what was committed to in the applicable water management plan involves an exercise of the board members' discretion. The court, therefore, affirmed a lower court decision dismissing the complaint.