By Evan Hamme and Marc Simonetti

The Texas Court of Appeals held that sovereign immunity bars Machete’s Chop Shop’s declaratory judgment action because Machete failed to plead that the Texas Film Commission acted ultra vires when it denied Machete’s grant application for the 2010 film, Machete. Machete alleged that the Texas Film Commission lacked authority to deny its grant application because the Commission initially approved the application after reviewing a copy of the script, and the script never changed prior to the film’s release. Although a Texas statute required the Commission to review a final script to determine if a film’s content contained “substantial changes” from the initial script, the Texas Court of Appeals interpreted the statute to permit the Commission to deny an application at any time—even if the script had not changed since initial approval—if the Commission determined the film contained inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion. Machete’s Chop Shop, Inc. v. Tex. Film Comm’n, et al., No. 03-14-00098-CV (Tex. Ct. App. Jan. 29, 2016).