Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Consolidated petitions for a writ of mandamus required the Alabama Supreme Court to consider the objections of four nonparty witnesses to subpoenas issued by the Utilities Board of the City of Daphne ("Daphne Utilities"). In case no. 1171028, two of the witnesses asked the Court to vacate an order entered by the trial court requiring them to produce certain electronic information. In case no. 1180360, three of the witnesses asked the Court to vacate an order entered by the trial court allowing subpoenas for their past employment records to be issued to their current employers. The Court denied the petition in case no. 1171028, finding a favorable decision resulting from a review would not alter the parties' already existing discovery obligations; the Court granted the petition and issued a writ of mandamus in case no. 1180360, finding that because Daphne Utilities' subpoenas demanding employment records from whistleblowers' employers were not proportional to the needs of the case and were not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. View "Ex parte Michael Wade Hogeland, Robert Miller, Vanna Trott." on Justia Law

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Mandamus petitions before the Alabama Supreme Court presented a question of whether the Cherokee Circuit Court and the Etowah Circuit Court (collectively, "the trial courts") could properly exercise personal jurisdiction over the petitioners, out-of-state companies (collectively, the defendants) in actions filed against them by the Water Works and Sewer Board of the Town of Centre ("Centre Water") and the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden ("Gadsden Water"). Centre Water and Gadsden Water alleged the defendants discharged toxic chemicals into industrial wastewater from their plants in Georgia, which subsequently contaminated Centre Water's and Gadsden Water's downstream water sources in Alabama. After moving unsuccessfully in the trial courts to have the actions against them dismissed, the defendants filed petitions for writs of mandamus seeking orders from the Alabama Supreme Court directing the trial courts to dismiss the actions against them based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court consolidated all the petitions for the purpose of issuing one opinion. Because Indian Summer, Kaleen, and Milliken made a prima facie showing that the trial courts lacked specific personal jurisdiction and Centre Water and Gadsden Water failed to produce any evidence to contradict that showing, the trial courts should have granted their motions to dismiss. Indian Summer, Kaleen, and Milliken have, therefore, demonstrated a clear legal right to the relief sought –- dismissal of Gadsden Water's and Centre Water's complaints against them –- and the petitions for a writ of mandamus in case nos. 1170887, 1171197, and 1171199 were granted. The Supreme Court concluded the trial courts could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the remaining defendants, and that the remaining defendants did not demonstrated a clear legal right to relief at this stage. View "Ex parte Kaleen Rugs, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama, on the relation of Shirley Williams-Scott, appealed a circuit court order denying Williams-Scott's petition for a writ of quo warranto seeking to declare that Eddie Penny did not hold office as the mayor of the City of Fairfield. The 2010 federal census indicated that the population of Fairfield had dropped below 12,000. A statutory provision stated that, "[i]n all towns or cities, a majority of the whole number of members to which such corporation is entitled, including the mayor in towns and cities of less than 12,000 population, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum." In the 2016 election cycle, Ed May II was elected to the position of mayor of Fairfield, and Penny was elected to the position of council president. It is undisputed that May did not attend any council meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning October 1, 2018. During its January 22, 2019 meeting, the city council approved a resolution providing that May was removed from office of mayor as a matter of law. Penny was subsequently proclaimed mayor by a vote of the council. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not err in denying Williams-Scott's petition for a writ of quo warranto seeking to declare Penny was not mayor of Fairfield. View "State ex rel. Williams-Scott v. Penny" on Justia Law

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Tim Tucker petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its order denying his summary-judgment motion in which he contended he was entitled to State-agent immunity for all claims asserted against him by Mary Young in an action stemming from injuries Young sustained when she tripped and fell on a residential street in the City of Orange Beach ("the City") in 2015. Tucker was the public-works director for the City. In January 2015, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Young was walking her dog along Louisiana Avenue. Young testified that it was dark and that there were no street lights. Young attempted to get her dog back on the street after it had veered off the asphalt, and she then tried to step onto the street as well from the shoulder. Young's foot caught on the edge of the asphalt and she tripped and fell to the ground. Young testified that she broke her shoulder as a result of the fall and that it had to be surgically repaired. Young alleged Tucker and the public works department "breached their duty by not inspecting and correcting the significant shoulder drop offs at various locations within the City of Orange Beach, including Louisiana Avenue, at any point during or after the 2012 repaving process ...." The Supreme Court determined Young's primary argument glossed over the more than two-year gap between the completion of the 2012 repavement project and her accident in January 2015. Tucker was entitled to State-agent immunity from all claims Young asserted against him. The circuit court was therefore directed to enter a summary judgment in favor of Tucker. View "Ex parte Tim Tucker." on Justia Law

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The City of Wetumpka sued Alabama Power Company because Alabama Power refused to relocate overhead electrical facilities located within the City's downtown area at the power company's expense. The circuit court dismissed the case, finding that it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission. To this, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed: the City challenged service regulations of the PSC, and the PSC had exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate such challenges. View "City of Wetumpka v. Alabama Power Company" on Justia Law

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This case addressed whether a foster-care provider and a caseworker for the Department of Human Resources ("DHR") were immune from liability. Arnold Curry filed this wrongful-death action against Becky Van Gilder, a licensed foster-care provider, and Kristi Kelley, a caseworker with the Montgomery County, Alabama DHR office, seeking damages for the death of his nine-year-old son A.C., who died of complications related to sickle-cell anemia after DHR removed him from Curry's home. Curry alleged that Van Gilder had acted negligently and wantonly in caring for A.C. and that Kelley had acted negligently and wantonly in managing A.C.'s case. Van Gilder and Kelley separately asked the Montgomery Circuit Court to enter summary judgments in their favor, denying liability and arguing that they were protected by immunity based on their respective roles as a foster parent and a DHR caseworker. The trial court denied their motions. They separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for writs of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its previous order denying their summary-judgment motions and to enter a new order granting those motions. The Supreme Court consolidated the petitions for the purpose of issuing one opinion, and granted the petitions in part and denied them in part. To the extent Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were based on allegations of negligence, those claims were barred by the doctrine of parental immunity. Parental immunity, however, did not bar wantonness-based claims, and Kelley did not establish that she was entitled to State-agent immunity as to the wantonness claim against her. Therefore, Curry's wrongful-death claims against Van Gilder and Kelley were allowed to proceed to the extent those claims were based on allegations of wantonness. View "Ex parte Kristi Kelley." on Justia Law

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Darrio Melton, as mayor of the City of Selma ("the city"), appealed a judgment entered in favor of the members of the Selma City Council. In September 2018, the council adopted Ordinance No. O108-17/18 giving the council the power to appoint the city's tax collector, chief of police, and chief of the fire department "in accordance and pursuant to [section] 11-43-5, [Ala. Code 1975]." The mayor vetoed the ordinance shortly after it was passed by the council. However, the council later overrode the mayor's veto, making the ordinance a part of the city's municipal code. In his complaint, the mayor alleged that the ordinance violates § 11-43-8l, Ala. Code 1975, which provides, in part, that the mayor "shall have the power to appoint all officers [of the city or town] whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by law." The mayor sought a judgment declaring the ordinance invalid; the complaint also sought preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing the implementation of the ordinance. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Melton v. Bowie, et al." on Justia Law

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Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. ("Courtyard Manor") appealed dismissal of its complaint against the City of Pelham. In August 2018, Courtyard Manor filed a complaint against the City after the City failed to conduct a hearing or otherwise to respond to Courtyard Manor's petition, filed with the City in September 2017, seeking to be deannexed from the City's municipal limits. Courtyard Manor averred in its complaint the City had agreed to apply its deannexation criteria to the matter, that the City had a duty to set the matter for a hearing, and the City had de facto denied the petition by failing to take any action on it. Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court conduct a hearing on the petition and enter an order deannexing Courtyard Manor from the City. Alternatively, Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court order the Pelham City Council to hold a hearing on the petition and to report its decision to the circuit court. The City moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The City argued that, in deciding whether to deannex property, a municipal governing body acted in a legislative capacity, a municipal governing body has discretion to determine if and when to deannex property, the governing body's discretion in determining if and when to deannex property was not subject to interference by the courts, the City's governing body had not determined the corporate limits of the City should have been reduced in the manner requested by Courtyard Manor, and that the City had no duty to hold a hearing on Courtyard Manor's petition. The circuit court granted the City's motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. v. City of Pelham" on Justia Law

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S. Mark Booth petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the the trial court to dismiss an action filed against him by the City of Guin. In 2008, Booth and the City entered into a contract entitled "Commercial Development Agreement." The agreement provided that the City would sell Booth approximately 40 acres of real property located in Marion County at a price of $5,000 per acre. Booth, in turn, promised to subdivide the property into lots for commercial development. The agreement included a provision granting the City the right to repurchase the property should Booth fail to develop the land within three years following the execution of the agreement. In 2017, the City sued Booth, asserting a claim for specific performance pursuant to the agreement's repurchase option. The City alleged Booth failed to construct at least one commercial facility on the property within three years from the effective date of the agreement. The City alleged that it had "timely tendered the purchase price to [Booth] and requested a conveyance of the real property described in the contract but [that Booth] refused to accept the tender or to make the conveyance." Booth moved to dismiss, arguing that, although he had fulfilled his obligations under the agreement by developing a hotel on the property, the City's complaint seeking to specifically enforce the repurchase of the property pursuant to its option to repurchase in Section 4.4(b) of the agreement was time-barred by the two-year statutory limitations period for such options in 35-4-76(a), Ala. Code 1975. After review, the Supreme Court granted Booth's petition as to the City's claims for specific performance, and its claims alleging fraud and breach of contact; the trial court was ordered to dismiss those claims. The Court denied Booth's petition relating to the City's rescission claim. View "Ex parte S. Mark Booth." on Justia Law

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The City of Tuskegee ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its order denying the City's motion for a summary judgment as to negligent inspection and negligent failure to provide hydrant and/or water pressure claims asserted against it, and to enter a summary judgment for the City as to those claims on the grounds of both substantive immunity and municipal immunity under 11-47-190, Ala. Code 1975. This case arose from the 2012 death of Yvonne Redd ("Yvonne") in a house fire that occurred at a Tuskegee residence. Significant among the allegations brought against the City was that the City’s safety inspector negligently inspected the rental home Yvonne had lived in, particularly with regard to the lack of hard-wired smoke detectors in Yvonne’s rented unit; and negligent inspection of fire hydrants closest to Yvonne’s residence. In its motion for a summary judgment, the City presented evidence: (1) indicating that TFD tested the hydrants in the City annually; (2) when TFD arrived on the scene, the tanks on Engine 1 and Engine 2 were both full of water; (3) the firefighters did not experience any problems with water pressure until the Macedonia fire department hooked its hose up to a hydrant south of the residence; (4) when Macedonia firefighters hooked up to that hydrant, they caused a "water hammer" that blew up the water main that supplied the fire hydrants, which caused a decrease in water pressure; and (5) fire trucks from the Shorter Fire Department and the VA Fire Department resupplied Engine 2 with water and that TFD was able to continuously fight the fire, even after the water-hammer issue. Based on this evidence, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the City was entitled to substantive immunity from the negligent-inspection claims. The Court thus granted the City’s application and issue the writ. View "Ex parte City of Tuskegee." on Justia Law