By Tabitha S. Etlinger, Associate, Saxon, Gilmore, Carraway & Gibbons, P.A.
In January, we summarized the Eleventh Circuit decision in United States of America ex rel. Michael Lesinski v. South Florida Water Management District, No. 12-16082, 2014 WL 23737 (11th Cir. Jan. 2, 2014). The Eleventh Circuit ruled in Lesinski that South Florida Water Management District (“SFWMD”) could not be liable in a case brought by a private citizen under the Federal Claims Act (the “Act”). In reaching its decision, the Court applied the four factor test routinely used to evaluate whether a public entity is immune from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id. at *2. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that SFWMD would generally be considered an arm of the state pursuant to the four factor test used under the Eleventh Amendment and, therefore, could not be sued under the Act. Id. at *3-*5. Notwithstanding, the Eleventh Circuit expressly limited its holding in Lesinski to the application of the Act to SFWMD and explicitly withheld a decision as to whether SFWMD would be immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at FN 9. On April 2, 2014, Lesinski filed a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, seeking to appeal the adverse decision, but on May 19, 2014, Lesinski’s petition was denied. As a result, no further clarification is provided, at least through the Lesinski case, regarding the relationship between immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and application of the Act to public entities.
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