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Doe v. Holcomb

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 2, 2018

John Doe, formerly known as Jane Doe, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Eric Holcomb, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Indiana, Curtis T. Hill, Jr., in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Indiana, Myla Eldridge, in her official capacity as Marion County Clerk of the Court, and Mary Willis, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, Defendants-Appellees. [*]

          Argued September 27, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:16-cv-02431-JMS-DML - Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         John Doe, whose legal name is Jane Doe, [1] is a transgender man residing in Marion County, Indiana. Though Doe is originally from Mexico, the United States granted him asylum in 2015 because of the persecution he might face in Mexico for being transgender. But this suit arises out of Doe's treatment in the United States. He alleges that he faces harassment and discrimination in the United States when he gives his legal name or shows his identification bearing it to others. Consequently, Doe seeks to legally change his name from Jane to John so that his name conforms to his genderidentity and physical appearance, which are male.

         Doe asserts that the Indiana statute governing name changes is unconstitutional because it requires name-change petitioners to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Ind. Code § 34-28-2-2.5(a)(5) (2016).[2] As an asylee, Doe can't provide such proof. He brought this case against the Governor and Attorney General of Indiana, the Marion County Clerk of Court, and the Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration in their official capacities. He seeks a declaration that the citizenship requirement violates his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and an injunction to prevent the defendants from enforcing it.

         The district court dismissed Doe's case against all the defendants for lack of standing after the defendants filed motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Doe appeals. We review the district court's dismissal de novo, accepting well-pleaded allegations as true and drawing reasonable inferences in favor of Doe. See Lewert v. P.F . Chang's China Bistro, Inc., 819 F.3d 963, 966 (7th Cir. 2016); Evers v. Astrue, 536 F.3d 651, 656 (7th Cir. 2008). For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         I. Analysis

         Federal courts have jurisdiction over certain cases and controversies. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. Standing is "the irreducible constitutional minimum" that determines which cases and controversies "are of the justiciable sort referred to in Article III." Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). The party invoking federal jurisdiction must establish the elements of standing: (1) that he suffered an injury in fact, (2) that the injury is causally connected to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Id. at 560-61.

         But even if a plaintiff could otherwise establish that he has standing to sue a state or a state official, the Eleventh Amendment generally immunizes those defendants from suit in federal court. A plaintiff can avoid this bar, however, by naming a state official who has "some connection with the enforcement" of an allegedly unconstitutional state statute for the purpose of enjoining that enforcement. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157 (1908).

         Thus, where a plaintiff sues a state official to enjoin the enforcement of a state statute, the requirements of Ex parte Young overlap significantly with the last two standing requirements-causation and redressability. That is, a plaintiff must show that the named state official plays some role in enforcing the statute in order to avoid the Eleventh Amendment. But, in order to satisfy the requirements of causation and redressability, he must also establish that his injury is causally connected to that enforcement and that enjoining the enforcement is likely to redress his injury.

         Here, Doe sued three state officials-the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration-and one county official-the Marion County Clerk of Court. We take each defendant in turn to address whether Doe can sue them in federal court. He cannot.

         A. The Eleventh Amendment bars Doe's suit against the named state officials.

         Doe has not shown that any of the named state officials are connected with the enforcement of the name-change statute, so the Eleventh Amendment bars his suit against them.

         1. The Governor

         "The mere fact that a governor is under a general duty to enforce state laws does not make him a proper defendant in every action attacking the constitutionality of a state statute." Shell Oil Co. v. Noel, 608 F.2d 208, 211 (1st Cir. 1979). Instead, Doe must allege that the Indiana Governor played some role in enforcing the name-change statute.

          Doe's strongest argument, though it still fails, is that the Governor plays a role in enforcing the name-change statute as head of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles ("BMV"). The BMV law provides that applications for driver's licenses or state-issued IDs must include "the full legal name of the applicant." Ind. Code § 9-24-9-2(1) (2016). And the BMV will not issue an ID to an applicant that reflects a different full name than what appears on the person's other legal documents unless the applicant provides a court order approving a full name change. See 140 Ind. Admin. Code 7-1.1-3(b)(1)(K) (2017). Together, Indiana's name-change statute and the BMV's requirements deny non-citizens the privilege of a full-name change on their identification.

         Doe may have been able to overcome the Eleventh Amendment had he sued the Governor to enjoin the enforcement of the BMV's requirements. Instead, Doe sued the Governor in his official capacity to prevent him from enforcing the name-change statute. But the Governor was not specifically charged with a duty to enforce the name-change statute, see Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. at 158, and he has not taken on any duty to enforce it either, see Love v. Pence, 47 F.Supp.3d 805, 808 (S.D. Ind. 2014). In short, the Governor doesn't do anything to enforce the name-change statute; if Indiana's statute permitted non-citizens to obtain a name change, then the BMV would, too. Consequently, the Eleventh Amendment bars this suit against the Indiana Governor. See Watford v. Quinn, No. 14-cv-00571-MJR, 2014 WL 3252201, at *2-3 (S.D. Ill. July 8, 2014) (noting that an Illinois statute prohibiting prisoners from petitioning ...


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