from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 5:14-cv-00025-MTT-MSH
TJOFLAT, WILLIAM PRYOR, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.
Cassady appeals the District Court's denial of his motion
for garnishment against the Georgia Department of
Administrative Services ("GDAS"). We hold that
garnishment actions are "suits" under the Eleventh
Amendment, Georgia has not waived its immunity to the type of
garnishment Mr. Cassady seeks, and Congress has not clearly
abrogated the states' immunity to such garnishments. We
accordingly affirm the District Court's denial of the
January 21, 2014, Mr. Cassady, a Georgia inmate, brought suit
against Mr. Hall, a state corrections officer, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Cassady alleged that in October 2010,
Mr. Hall physically and sexually attacked him in the Georgia
Diagnostic and Classification Prison, where Mr. Cassady was
an inmate and Mr. Hall was a corrections officer. The case
proceeded to trial, and a jury found in favor of Mr. Cassady.
The jury awarded him $150, 000 in compensatory damages and
$50, 000 in punitive damages. The District Court rendered
judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict.
Mr. Cassady moved the District Court to issue a writ of
garnishment ordering the State of Georgia to redirect to him
the funds he argues are due to be paid to Mr. Hall under
Georgia's General Liability Agreement ("GLA"),
which he says gives state employees like Mr. Hall a right of
indemnification for judgments arising out of the performance
of their official duties. As statutory authority for the writ
of garnishment, Mr. Cassady cited 28 U.S.C. § 3205 or,
alternatively, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Mr. Cassady argued that these federal sources authorize
district courts to issue writs of garnishment. Moreover, Mr.
Cassady averred, Georgia has, in its Constitution, waived
sovereign immunity in contract actions against the State;
thus, because the GLA is a contract between the State and its
employees, sovereign immunity is waived as to the garnishment
of Mr. Hall's contractual entitlement to indemnification.
District Court denied the motion on the ground that Georgia
has not waived sovereign immunity with respect to garnishment
actions, and, alternatively, that Mr. Hall's
indemnification rights (if any) under the GLA do not
constitute a "property interest" as that term is
defined under § 3205. Mr. Cassady timely appealed.
review the District Court's legal conclusions de
novo. E.g., Mitchell v. Farcass, 112
F.3d 1483, 1486 (11th Cir. 1997). The Eleventh Amendment of
the United States Constitution bars suits against states in
federal court unless a state has waived its sovereign
immunity or Congress has abrogated it. Nichols v. Ala.
State Bar, 815 F.3d 726, 731 (11th Cir. 2016) (per
curiam). This bar includes state agencies and other arms of
the state. Robinson v. Ga. Dep't of
Transp., 966 F.2d 637, 638-40 (11th Cir. 1992). With
respect to congressional abrogation, a federal statute will
not be read to abrogate a state's sovereign immunity
unless Congress has made its intention to do so
"unmistakably clear" in the language of the
statute. Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S.
234, 242, 105 S.Ct. 3142, 3147 (1985).
initial matter, that Mr. Cassady sought garnishment in a
document styled as a motion, rather than as a separate
lawsuit naming the State of Georgia as a defendant, has no
bearing on the sovereign immunity inquiry. The Eleventh
Amendment extends only to "suits in law or
equity." (Emphasis added). However, the Supreme Court
has instructed us to eschew a formalistic reading of the term
"suit" when considering whether the Eleventh
Amendment protects its sovereign immunity. Instead, we are to
look to "the essential nature and effect of the
proceeding." Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of
Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 277, 117 S.Ct. 2028, 2038 (1997)
(quotation omitted). Long ago, Chief Justice Marshall
elaborated on this inquiry. He remarked: "What is a
suit? We understand it to be the prosecution, or pursuit, of
some claim, demand, or request." Cohens v.
Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 407 (1821).
action below, Mr. Cassady sought an order from the District
Court under the auspices of federal law requiring the State
of Georgia to redirect money to him that it would otherwise
pay to Mr. Hall, in accordance with a contract under Georgia
law to which Mr. Cassady was not a party. And the District
Court would do this although the State of Georgia was not a
party to Mr. Cassady's suit against Mr. Hall. In form and
function, the "essential nature and effect" of the
motion was to coerce the State to alter the terms of its
contract with Mr. Hall so that it paid money it owed him to
Mr. Cassady instead. This is certainly "prosecution . .
. of some claim, demand, or request." Hence, the motion
falls within the Eleventh Amendment's
Georgia is immune from such actions unless it has given
federal courts permission to entertain garnishment actions
against it. It has not done so. Under the Georgia
Constitution, the State's sovereign immunity "can
only be waived by an Act of the General Assembly which
specifically provides that sovereign immunity is thereby
waived and the extent of such waiver." Ga. Const. art.
I, § II. There is no act that expressly waives
Georgia's immunity to the type of garnishment Mr. Cassady
seeks. The only Georgia statute authorizing
garnishment of State funds permits garnishments to recover
"[m]oney due officials or employees of a municipal
corporation or county of this state or of the state
government, or any department or institution thereof, as
salary for services performed for or on behalf of the
municipal corporation or county of this state or the state,
or any department or institution thereof." O.C.G.A.
§ 18-4-26(a) (emphasis added). This statute makes no
mention of ordering garnishment of state funds paid to a
state employee under an indemnification agreement for the
purposes of securing a third party's judgment.
the statute restricts jurisdiction over such actions to
"a court located in the county in which the warrant is
drawn on the treasury of the government or in which the check
is issued for the salary due the official or employee of the
state or its political subdivisions." Id.
§ 18-4-26(b). It says nothing about the federal courts;
thus, even if the statute could be read to waive
Georgia's sovereign immunity for such purposes, it does
not indicate that it waives the State's immunity in
federal court. See Schopler v. Bliss, 903 F.2d 1373,
1379 (11th Cir. 1990) (per curiam) ("Evidence that a
state has waived sovereign immunity in its own courts is not
by itself sufficient to establish waiver of Eleventh
Amendment immunity from suit in federal court."). The
same is true of Georgia's waiver of its sovereign
immunity in contract actions: this Court has already held