HOUSTON -- The Texas 14th Court of Appeals
affirmed June 20 the city of Houston’s and a number of city officials’
jurisdictional plea in the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement
Fund’s lawsuit that alleged changes to the fund were unconstitutional.
The firefighters fund filed a lawsuit against the city and several
of its officials, as well as the state of Texas, alleging new amendments
to the fund via Senate Bill 2190 violate the Texas Constitution,
specifically Article XVI, Section 67(f). It requested declaratory,
injunctive and mandamus relief along with a financial judgment in its
favor and attorney fees. However, the defendants had filed
jurisdictional pleas, alleging the court lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction, which were granted in a lower court, and the appeals court
The appeals court first determined if the lower court erred when it
greenlighted the city’s jurisdictional plea as the firefighters fund
said SB 2190 is unconstitutional.
The court said, “If the city is immune from suit under the doctrine
of governmental immunity, courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over
the claims against the city.” While the fund said it determined a waiver
for the city’s governmental immunity when it asked for declaratory
judgment, the court said, “The city’s governmental immunity is waived
only to the extent the fund has pleaded a viable constitutional
claim…Thus, the fund’s request for a declaratory judgment that S.B. 2190
is unconstitutional is not enough to show a waiver of the city’s
The appeals court also answered the question of whether the
firefighters fund has properly alleged that S.B. 2190 facially violates
Section 67(f). It pointed out that simply showing a new regulation calls
for unconstitutional actions just some of the time, isn’t sufficient.
Instead, to prevail in claims that a statute is facially
unconstitutional, it has to be unconstitutional in every situation,
which isn’t the reality in this case, the court ruled.
The appeals court added that the lower court didn’t err when it
granted the jurisdictional pleas, ruling, “[The] amendment could not
cure the fund’s pleadings. Even so, the fund failed to request an
opportunity to amend its pleadings in this regard after the trial court
sustained the city’s jurisdictional plea.”
Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost authored the opinion, and justices Charles A. Spain and Margaret “Meg” Poissant concurred.