Tueth Keeney’s Jim Layton Urges Missouri Supreme Court to Preserve Sovereign Immunity for Political Subdivisions, Such as School Districts and Counties

Feb 18, 2020

Today Jim Layton of Tueth Keeney filed a brief for the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers (MoDL) as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) in the Missouri Supreme Court in Moore v. Bi-State. The question before the Court is whether caps on damages that apply to most Missouri political subdivisions””such as school districts and counties””apply to Bi-State, the entity that operates mass transit in the St. Louis area.

Jim’s brief points out that the Missouri Supreme Court has consistently required that any waiver of immunity by the Missouri legislature be “explicit” and “express.” But the waiver claimed by the plaintiff in Moore v. Bi-State does not appear in any Missouri statute. Instead, Plaintiff derived it from a reference in a Missouri statute to unspecified rules of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the MoDL brief, Jim urges the Court to reject the idea that the legislature waives immunity of political subdivisions merely by referencing federal rules””rules that could change at any time, with no involvement by Missouri lawmakers””in a bill that says nothing about immunity. Instead, he argues, the Court should ensure that the legislature explicitly addresses immunity, so that officials of Missouri cities, counties, school districts, and other political subdivisions can look to Missouri statutes to find the parameters of sovereign immunity.

This is the ninth time Jim has appeared as counsel for amicus curiae in the Missouri Supreme Court.

James Layton leads the firm’s Appellate practice group and is a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation, Labor, and Education groups. He assists clients with analysis and presentation of complex legal issues in Missouri and federal courts, both trial and appellate. In addition to handling cases himself and with other attorneys at Tueth Keeney, Jim consults with clients on appellate strategy and assists other counsel in high-stakes, complex appeals.

Jim has briefed and argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and before all Missouri appellate courts””including nearly 100 cases before the Missouri Supreme Court. He has represented clients in U.S. district courts and in Missouri circuit courts from Jackson County to the City of St. Louis. He has extensive experience with government-related litigation and state taxation disputes. Jim is a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a past president of the Bar Association of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Council of Appellate Lawyers. He is a frequent speaker in the areas of appellate practice and constitutional law, both state and federal.

Appellate Practice –  Tueth Keeney lawyers have briefed and argued hundreds of appeals, including appeals in all Missouri and Illinois state and federal appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Appellate Practice Group represents clients on a wide range of issues impacting businesses, individuals, government entities, and educational institutions. Tueth Keeney attorneys are also available to contribute their considerable experience (including more than 90 arguments before the Missouri Supreme Court) to appeals handled by others””strategizing, assisting with briefs, and preparing for oral argument.