Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Deutsche Bank National Trust Company ("Deutsche Bank"); MERSCORP, Inc., and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (collectively, "MERS"); and CIS Financial Services, Inc. ("CIS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for permission, pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., to appeal the trial court's denial of their motions seeking to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs-- Walker County and Rick Allison, in his official capacity as judge of probate of Walker County (collectively, "plaintiffs")--seeking class-based relief on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated Alabama counties and judges of probate. At issue was a particular aspect of the mortgage-securitization process. Deutsche Bank served as trustee for numerous residential mortgage-backed security ("RMBS") trusts containing mortgages for properties located in Walker County and other Alabama counties. In this case, plaintiffs initiated the underlying litigation against Deutsche Bank "seeking to recover the benefit [Deutsche Bank allegedly] received by relying on the real property recording systems of the Counties without compensating the Counties for that benefit." Plaintiffs alleged that Alabama law requires mortgage assignments to be recorded; therefore, they maintained, the MERS system used by Deutsche Bank avoided the proper recording of mortgage assignments, along with the payment of the requisite filing fees, and has resulted in lost income to county governments. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded: “We see no intent in the Code section to embrace a mandatory rule that all conveyances, which would include not only real-property conveyances but also apparently all conveyances of personal property, are required to be recorded in the probate court. Instead, 35-4-50 simply states that the probate court is where conveyances that are required by law to be filed must be filed. Section 35-4-51, in turn, is the Code section that provides for the recording of conveyances generally, and it places a duty on only the probate court to accept those filings. The arguments before us demonstrate no legal duty to record mortgage assignments.” View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee of any specific residential mortgage-backed security" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over the planned construction of a high-rise condominium along the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Perdido Dunes property shared common boundaries with property containing other beachfront condominium buildings. Phoenix East, a Condominium, was a 14-story condominium with 158 residential units located adjacent to and directly east of the Perdido Dunes property. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan effectively destroyed an 8-unit portion of Perdido Dunes. The City's zoning regulations prohibited Perdido Dunes from separating into two parcels, but the City would allow Perdido Dunes to split the PDAI (the condominium association) into two neighborhood associations governed by a master association. The ownership interest in the Master Association would comprise the unit owners of two newly created neighborhood associations, namely the Perdido Dunes Tower Condominium Owners Association, Inc. and the Perdido Dunes 2006 Condominium Owners Association, Inc. The PD Tower Association would serve as the association for Perdido Dunes Tower, a prospective 10-story, 20-unit condominium building measuring 56 feet in length that was to be developed by Perdido Dunes Tower, LLC ("Tower LLC"), on the land where the 8-unit building had been located. The City issued a building permit to Tower LLC in 2008, authorizing it to begin construction of Perdido Dunes Tower. The planned construction was interrupted in 2015, when the City notified Tower LLC of concerns relating to the width of the proposed Perdido Dunes Tower in relation to the neighboring properties, namely Phoenix East and Phoenix VIII. The City directed that Tower LLC could not begin substantial construction on the building, and the City informed Tower LLC that its building permit would be revoked. If the building permit were revoked, Tower LLC would be required to apply for a new permit under updated City building standards, which, according to the trial court's judgment being challenged on appeal, "would have required significant additional undertakings by the Tower LLC to attempt to complete the building of a compliant tower structure." To challenge the proposed Perdido Tower project, the Phoenix entities sued, arguing the consent decree that resulted between the City and the Master Association was void. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the Phoenix VIII Association lacked standing to challenge the consent decree; the Court ruled Phoenix East Association had standing, but "its challenge to the consent decree is unavailing, and the consent decree is affirmed." View "Phoenix East Association, Inc. v. Perdido Dunes Tower, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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W.R. Meriwether, Factors & Drayage, LLC ("Meriwether"), and Gregory Thompson appealed adverse judgments entered in Meriwether and Thompson's action against the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority ("the Fire Authority") and other defendants. Meriwether and Thompson each owned parcels of real property that adjoined a 10-acre piece of property owned by the Fire Authority. All three parcels were located in the Town of Pike Road ("Pike Road"). Pursuant to a Pike Road zoning ordinance, the parcels were located in an area zoned for "low density, single-family residential development." Materials submitted to the trial court indicated the Fire Authority planned to build a fire station on its 10-acre parcel. Meriwether and Thompson sued the Fire Authority and Pike Road, along with the members of the Fire Authority's board of directors, the Pike Road Planning Commission, the chairman of the Planning Commission, and the Pike Road planning director. In their complaint, Meriwether and Thompson sought a judgment declaring that the Fire Authority is subject to the referenced zoning ordinance and that constructing a fire station on its property would be a violation of that ordinance. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Fire Authority did not qualify as a body entitled to an exemption from zoning regulation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's judgments and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "W.R. Meriwether, Factors and Drayage, LLC v. Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority" on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a mandamus relief. The State sought the vacation of a circuit court order holding certain statutes and acts of Alabama unconstitutional, and to require the Mobile circuit clerk to withhold 10% of the funds collected as court costs and fees from litigants in Mobile County until such time the State adequately funds the clerk’s office. This matter arose out of a criminal proceeding in which a grand jury indicted Mandy Brady for trafficking methamphetamine. Brady posted bond on that charge and was released; however, she was subsequently arrested on a new charge, and the State moved to revoke her bond. The circuit court granted the State's motion and revoked Brady's bond. Despite the fact that Brady was in State custody when the circuit court revoked the bond, Brady did not appear at her scheduled trial on the trafficking charge. When Brady failed to appear, the circuit court issued a show-cause order to the circuit clerk, the Mobile County sheriff, "and/or" the warden of the Mobile County jail seeking an explanation as to why Brady was released from jail despite the fact that the circuit court had revoked her bond. The warden testified that he never received notice from the circuit clerk's office that Brady's bond had been revoked; the circuit clerk testified that an employee in her office had properly entered the circuit court's order revoking Brady's bond before Brady was released from the county jail but that employee apparently failed to send notice of the order to the county jail. The circuit clerk explained that this mistake occurred because she did not have the ability to fully train her employees before giving them the responsibility of managing a circuit judge's docket; ultimately the problem, according to the circuit clerk, was that she did not have adequate funding to retain well trained personnel. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court exceeded its authority in the Brady matter, “purporting to award declaratory and injunctive relief no party had requested.” The State’s petition for mandamus relief was granted. View "Ex parte State of Alabama." on Justia Law

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McArthur Sargent, chairman of The Waterworks and Gas Board of Dora, Alabama ("the Board"), in the name of the State of Alabama, appealed a circuit court order denying Sargent's petition for a writ of quo warranto seeking to declare Chris Edwards ineligible to hold office as a member of the Board because he was then-currently serving on the City Council of the City of Dora. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the restated and amended certificate of incorporation, which was controlling, did not include any prohibition against municipal officers serving on the Board. Accordingly, the Court held Edwards was duly appointed to serve as a member of the Board effective July 1, 2018, notwithstanding that he was already serving, as a member of the City Council of the City of Dora. View "State of Alabama ex rel. Waterworks and Gas Board of Dora, Alabama v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs A.A. Nettles, Sr. Properties Limited, and Eula Lambert Boyles sought to quiet title a right-of-way that had been conveyed by the Alabama Railroad Company to the Monroe County Commission for use as a recreational trail in accordance with the National Trails System Act ("the Trails Act"), 16 U.S.C. 1247. The trial court quieted title in favor of plaintiffs. The Commission appealed, contending the evidence submitted was insufficient for the trial court to determine the railroad intended to abandon its interest in the right-of-way. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in concluding the easement reserved to the railroad by a right-of-way was provided in a quitclaim deed lapsed by nonuse, and was thus extinguished by operation of law, leaving nothing for the railroad to convey to the Commission. View "Monroe County Commission v. Nettles, et al." on Justia Law

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GASP, an Alabama nonprofit corporation, filed a petition for certiorari review by the Alabama Supreme Court to challenge a Court of Civil Appeals decision. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the Montgomery Circuit Court's dismissal of GASP's petition challenging a decision of the Jefferson County Board of Health ("the Board") to amend its rules under the under the Alabama Air Pollution Control Act of 1971, section 22-28-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the Air Control Act"). The Supreme Court granted GASP's petition for a writ of certiorari in order to evaluate, among other things, whether the Court of Civil Appeals correctly concluded that the rule-making procedures of the Air Control Act preempted any other rule-making procedures potentially applicable to the Board, particularly the rule-making procedures of the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act, section 41-22-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the AAPA"). The Supreme Court determined the Court of Civil Appeals erred in concluding that the Air Control Act preempted the administrative procedures provided in the AAPA. However, the Board was not an "agency" of the State as defined in section 41-22-3(1), Ala. Code 1975, of the AAPA, and therefore the Board was not subject to the procedural requirements of the AAPA. Thus, although the Supreme Court relied on different rationale than the Court of Civil Appeals, that court's judgment affirming the judgment of the circuit court was nevertheless affirmed. View "Ex parte GASP." on Justia Law

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The Clay County Commission appealed a trial court decision in favor of Clay County Animal Shelter, Inc. In July 2017, the county commission and three individuals ("the plaintiffs") initiated an action in against the animal shelter and certain state officials seeking injunctive relief and a judgment, pursuant to section 6-6-220 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, declaring that part of Act No. 2017-65 directing an expenditure of a portion of Clay County's tobacco-tax proceeds to the animal shelter to be unconstitutional. The plaintiffs asserted that Act No. 2017-65 was improperly enacted without a sufficient number of legislative votes in violation of Article IV, section 73, Ala. Const. 1901. The plaintiffs also filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily restrain distribution of Clay County's tobacco-tax receipts to the animal shelter. The animal shelter moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court held the plain meaning of the language in Act No. 2017-65 provided for an appropriation to the animal shelter of 18% of Clay County's tobacco-tax proceeds. The animal shelter did not dispute that it is a "charitable or educational institution not under the absolute control of the state" within the meaning of section 73, nor did it argue that an appropriation to it would be exempt from the voting requirements of section 73. Thus, the legislature's appropriation to the animal shelter had to receive "a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house" to comply with section 73. "It did not. That part of Act No. 2017-65 appropriating 18% of Clay County's tobacco-tax proceeds, i.e., Section 2(a)(3), is, therefore, unconstitutional." The trial court's judgment upholding Section 2(a)(3) was, therefore, reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Clay County Commission v. Clay County Animal Shelter, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009, the Marshall County Department of Human Resources (DHR) removed J.J.V. from the custody of mother M.M.T. At that time, the child's father, J.V., was living in Florida, where mother and child resided until mother left father. Father came to Alabama to locate mother and child only to learn that DHR had removed the child from the mother's home. Without the aid of counsel, father attempted to work with DHR, briefly reuniting with mother. However, a DHR caseworker informed him that the child would not be returned to the parents if they resided together. Father left mother's residence, retained an attorney and secured supervised visitation with the child. In December 2010 and January 2011, father was granted unsupervised visitation with the child; he had a total of five unsupervised visits. After one such visit, the child's foster parents contacted a DHR caseworker, who was told the child had reported that father had "hurt her butt." At the caseworker's instruction, the foster parents took the child to the emergency room, which then referred the child for examination by a forensic nurse examiner. After the accusation, the father's visitation was changed to supervised visitation. In October 2011, father was charged with sexual abuse, arrested and placed in jail, where he remained for approximately 18 months. DHR filed a petition to terminate the father's parental rights; however, the juvenile court denied that petition. DHR appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the juvenile court's judgment declining to terminate the father's parental rights and remanding the case for reconsideration of DHR's termination petition based on the evidence adduced at trial. On remand, the juvenile court entered another judgment declining to terminate the father's parental rights; there was no appeal. The sexual-abuse charge against father was dismissed in 2013. The father was then transferred to a detention facility in Louisiana on an immigration hold based on his status as an illegal immigrant. The father was released from the Louisiana facility in September 2014, after a 17–month detention. The father moved to Canton, Georgia, then sought custody of the child. The Supreme Court found after review of all the testimony in the lower court records, the parties were not yet ready for a change of legal and physical custody of the child and that such a change was actually not in the best interest of the child, and because there was no evidence indicating that those circumstances changed throughout all court proceedings. "Therefore, the juvenile court's October 19, 2017, order immediately removing the child from her foster parents and ultimately transferring legal and physical custody of the child to the father is not in the child's best interest and is, instead, plainly and palpably wrong." The Court reversed judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for that court to order the juvenile court to vacate its judgment. View "Ex parte Marshall County Department of Human Resources." on Justia Law

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The Wilcox County Board of Education ("the Board"), and Board members Lester Turk, Donald McLeod, Joseph Pettway, Jr., and Shelia Dortch (collectively, "the Board members"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss the claims against them based on immunity and to enter an order granting that motion. In 2017, Kimberly Perryman, as guardian and next friend of her minor son, R.M., sued the Board, and J.E. Hobbs Elementary School principal Roshanda Jackson, and teacher Timothy Irvin Smiley. Perryman alleged in 2016, Smiley, "in a fit of rage and unprovoked, did lift the Plaintiff R.M. and slam him down upon a table, with such force as to break said table." Perryman further alleged in her rendition of the facts that "Smiley was in the habit of continuously and repeatedly using harsh, physical and otherwise inappropriate tactics on the students in his class" and that "Smiley's behavior was known or should have been known to the Principal Defendant and the School Board Defendant[]." Perryman asserted claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Smiley; claims of negligence and negligent/wanton hiring, training, retention, and supervision against Jackson; and a claim of negligence against the Board. Specifically, the negligence claim against the Board stated: "The ... Wilcox County Board of Education negligently breached [its] dut[y] to R.M. by failing to supervise, discipline or remove if necessary, the Defendant teacher [Timothy Smiley], thereby placing the Plaintiff R.M. in harm's way." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Board and the Board members in their official capacities were entitled to immunity from the state-law claims asserted against them; the Board members in their individual capacities were entitled to State-agent immunity from any state-law claims asserted against them; and that the Board members in their individual capacities were entitled to qualified immunity from the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim asserted against them. Therefore, the circuit court should have dismissed Perryman's claims with respect to those parties, and to that extent the petition for mandamus relief was granted. However, the Board and the Board members in their official capacities were not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from the section 1983 claim, and the petition was denied with respect to that claim. View "Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education" on Justia Law