Plea to the Jurisdiction

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Jason B. Freeman

Jason B. Freeman

Managing Member

214.984.3410
jason@freemanlaw.com

Mr. Freeman is the founding member of Freeman Law, PLLC. He is a dual-credentialed attorney-CPA, author, law professor, and trial attorney.

Mr. Freeman has been named by Chambers & Partners as among the leading tax and litigation attorneys in the United States and to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers in America list. He is a former recipient of the American Bar Association’s “On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers” in America award. Mr. Freeman was named the “Leading Tax Controversy Litigation Attorney of the Year” for the State of Texas for 2019 and 2020 by AI.

Mr. Freeman has been recognized multiple times by D Magazine , a D Magazine Partner service, as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas, and as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service. He has previously been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Top 100 Up-And-Coming Attorney in Texas.

Mr. Freeman currently serves as the chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA). He is a former chairman of the Dallas Society of CPAs (TXCPA-Dallas). Mr. Freeman also served multiple terms as the President of the North Texas chapter of the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs. He has been previously recognized as the Young CPA of the Year in the State of Texas (an award given to only one CPA in the state of Texas under 40).

What is a Plea to the Jurisdiction?

A plea to the jurisdiction challenges the trial court’s power to exercise subject-matter jurisdiction.  The plea is a “dilatory” plea that is typically used to defeat a plaintiff’s cause of action without regard to whether the claims have any merit.

A plea to the jurisdiction challenges a trial court’s authority to hear a case by alleging that the factual allegations in the plaintiff’s pleadings, when taken as true, fail to invoke the trial court’s jurisdiction.

It may also challenge the existence of jurisdictional facts.  In such instances, the plea may require the court to consider evidence pertaining to the jurisdictional facts.

How do Courts Decide a Such a “Plea”?

In deciding a plea to the jurisdiction, courts construe the pleadings in the plaintiff’s favor and look to the pleader’s intent.  However, a court may not weigh the claims’ merits, but may only consider the plaintiffs’ pleadings and the evidence pertinent to the jurisdictional inquiry.  If a plaintiff fails to plead facts establishing jurisdiction, but the petition does not contain incurable defects in jurisdiction, it is a pleading sufficiency issue, and the plaintiff should be allowed the opportunity to amend. On the other hand, if the pleadings affirmatively negate the existence of jurisdiction, then the plea may be granted without allowing the plaintiff an opportunity to amend.

History of the Plea to the Jurisdiction

The plea to the jurisdiction was included in procedural rules promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court in 1877 and has been used as a procedural vehicle to challenge subject matter jurisdiction in trial courts for over a century and a half.  It is, in other words, nothing new.

As early as 1893, Texas courts indicated that evidentiary challenges to subject matter jurisdiction raised in pleas to the jurisdiction should be considered by trial courts.

And in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Blackstone lists them as a category of dilatory pleas that (along with pleas of disability and abatement) deny the propriety of the remedy rather than the injury.

One hundred years ago, the Texas Supreme Court addressed a variety of matters as pleas to the jurisdiction, including objections based on personal jurisdiction, subject-matter jurisdiction, dominant jurisdiction, venue, capacity, and conflict of laws.

In recent decades, pleas to the jurisdiction have increased in the field of governmental immunity.  For many years, governmental units were not very particular about the vehicle for asserting immunity, raising it sometimes by—

In recent years, however, the plea it generally asserted through a plea to the jurisdiction, given the right to an interlocutory appeal.