Does the Language of a Relief Request Determine Whether Sovereign Immunity Bars An Individual's Claims Against State Police ?
In Stackhouse v. Pennsylvania State Police, 892 A.2d 54 (Pa. Cmwlth.), pet. for allowance of appeal denied, 588 Pa. 760, 903 A.2d 539 (2006), we examined the language of requested relief in determining whether sovereign immunity barred the plaintiff's claims against the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).
There, the plaintiff filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief as well as for monetary damages allegedly resulting from a PSP investigation. the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint on the grounds of sovereign immunity.
On appeal, the Court reviewed the language of plaintiff's request for injunctive relief and found it comprised requests for two distinct remedies: an order barring the PSP from using any information gathered during the investigation for any purpose; and, an order mandating the PSP to institute guidelines and policies relative to internal affair investigations.
As to the plaintiff's first request, the Court reversed the trial court because such actions are not barred by sovereign immunity. Id.; Bonsavage v. Borough of Warrior Run, 676 A.2d 1330 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996).
In reviewing the plaintiff's second request, however, the Court determined the claim was barred by sovereign immunity because the plaintiff sought to compel an affirmative action by the PSP, the implementation of guidelines and policies.
Hence, the language of the relief request was determinative of whether sovereign immunity barred the plaintiff's claims.