Texas Parks and Wildlife Department v. The Sawyer Trust (Tex. 2011) (Opinion
by Justice Johnson)
FULL TEXT OF OPINION [ coming soon ]
Opinions are available in pdf from the Court's website. Follow docket-number hotlink or case-style hyperlink
OPINION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS BELOW: Court of Appeals
Also see: Texas Causes of Action | 2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions | 2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department v. The Sawyer Trust,
No. 07-0945 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011) (Opinion by Justice Johnson)(sovereign immunity issue, takings claim,
opportunity to replead and assert ultra vires claim)
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT v. THE SAWYER TRUST; from Donley County; 7th district (07-
06-00487-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 08-22-07)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court.
Justice Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Wainwright, Justice
Medina, Justice Green, Justice Willett, Justice Guzman, and Justice Lehrmann joined. [pdf]
Chief Justice Jefferson delivered a concurring opinion, in which Justice Medina, Justice Willett, and Justice
Guzman joined. [pdf]
This appeal involves the issue of whether the trial court had jurisdiction over a claim against
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine whether the Salt Fork of the Red River is
navigable. The Sawyer Trust sued the Department for a declaratory judgment that the river is not
navigable and that the Trust owns the riverbed where it crosses the Trust’s property in Donley
County. The Department filed a plea to the jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity. After the
Department took the position that the river was navigable—and the State therefore owned the
riverbed—the Trust added a constitutional takings claim. The trial court denied the Department’s
plea and the court of appeals affirmed.
We hold that the Trust’s claims for a declaratory judgment are barred by sovereign immunity
and the Trust cannot assert a takings claim under these circumstances. We also hold, however, that
the Trust is entitled to replead and attempt to assert an ultra vires claim against state officials if it
chooses to do so. We reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and remand the case to the trial court
for further proceedings.
Conclusion. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals. The case is remanded to the trial court
for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion
Justice Hecht delivered an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Link to e-briefs: TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT v. THE SAWYER TRUST