Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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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

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Alabama Public Charter School Commission members Mac Buttram, Charles Jackson, Lisa Williams, Melinda McLendon, Terri Tomlinson, Tommy Ledbetter, Melissa Kay McInnis, Chad Fincher, Henry Nelson, and Ibrahim Lee (collectively, "the Commission members"); LEAD Education Foundation ("LEAD"); and Ed Richardson, former interim State Superintendent of Education (with the Commission members, referred to collectively as "defendants"), separately appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the Alabama Education Association ("the AEA"), Vicky Holloway, and Felicia Fleming (collectively, "plaintiffs"). In 2017, LEAD submitted an application to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission ("the Commission") seeking to open a public charter school beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. In 2018, the Commission conducted an open meeting, with seven out of nine members present. Neither Holloway, Fleming, nor an AEA representative was present at the meeting, and no private citizens voiced any opposition to LEAD's application. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Commission voted 5-1 to approve LEAD's application. On March 15, 2018, the Commission adopted a resolution approving LEAD's application. On March 5, 2018, plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Commission members, Richardson, and LEAD, seeking among other things, to invalidate the Commission's 5-1 decision to approve LEAD's application to open a public charter school. Plaintiffs alleged, among other things, defendants did not have a quorum vote, and that the Commission violated the ASCSOA by not rejecting what they called a "weak or inadequate charter application." Extending "great weight and deference" to the interpretation of the ASCSOA by the Commission as the implementing agency, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Commission's interpretation of the ASCSOA as requiring an 11th member only when the local school board is an authorizer to be reasonable. The local school board was not an authorizer at the time the Commission considered the charter-school application. Thus, the Commission did not violate the ASCSOA by failing to include an 11th member. Furthermore, the Court concluded that, to the extent the circuit court denied defendants' motions for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' claim that the Commission violated the ASCSOA by voting as a majority of a quorum, the circuit court's decision was incorrect as a matter of law. Accordingly, it was ordered that the judgment be reversed and a judgment be rendered in favor of defendants. View "LEAD Education Foundation et al. v. Alabama Education Association et al." on Justia Law

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Sarah Swindle, Bill Newton, Young Boozer, Philip Cleveland, Susan Williams Brown, Richard Brown, Joe Ward, Luke Hallmark, Susan Lockridge, Russell Twilley, John R. Whaley, Charlene McCoy, C. Ray Hayes, and Donald Large, Jr., in their official capacities as board members of the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Program ("PEEHIP"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Sheila Hocutt Remington, acting personally and as then president of the Alabama Education Association ("the AEA"). Specifically, the members of the PEEHIP Board ("the Board") challenged the circuit court's determination they violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act, and its judgment granting Remington declaratory and injunctive relief. After review of the record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that, at least to the extent the circuit court ordered injunctive relief beginning from the effective date of the superseding rate adjustments on or after May 1, 2018, and proceeding prospectively, Remington's request for injunctive relief was moot. The issues related to the premium surcharge increases between October 1, 2016, and May 1, 2018, however, remained ripe for review. To the extent the circuit court determined that the Board violated the Open Meetings Act by conducting the morning session in private, the Supreme Court agreed: under the circumstances of this case, it was clear to the Court there was only one "meeting" as that term was defined by 36-25A-2(6)a, which began during a closed morning session and continued during the open afternoon session. The Court further concluded the closed morning session of the meeting did not meet exceptions to the definition of a meeting required to be open to the public set forth in 36- 25A-2(6)b. The invalidation provision of 36-25A-9(f) did not apply, because it was clear the violation occurred during the full-day meeting and there was no genuine issue demonstrating that the invalidation of the Board's action would unduly prejudice third parties who relied upon the challenged action. Accordingly, with respect to the issues that remained ripe for review, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Swindle et al. v. Remington" on Justia Law

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Respondents, Sharron Stevens and Tim Stevens, sued petitioners, Leon Wilson, in his official capacity as the former president of Alabama State University, and Quinton Ross, in his official capacity as the current president of Alabama State University. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them on the basis that they were immune from suit. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and petitioners filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting the Alabama Supreme Court direct the trial court to enter an order dismissing the claims asserted against them. The underlying lawsuit arose when a Sharon Steves tripped and fell at an exit at the Acadome shortly after their daughter's graduation ceremony. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no possibility the Stevenses could possibly prevail on their claims against petitioners: the Stevenses sued the petitioners solely in their official capacities and sought only monetary damages from petitioners.. Thus, petitioners were immune from suit and entitled to a dismissal of the claims against them. View "Ex parte Leon C. Wilson, in his official capacity as the former President of Alabama State University, and Quinton Ross, in his official capacity as the current President of Alabama State University." on Justia Law

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The Alabama Surface Mining Commission ("the Commission") and Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. ("Black Warrior"), separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss the underlying action seeking judicial review of the Commission's issuance of a surface-coal-mining permit to Black Warrior, or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to the Walker Circuit Court. The underlying action was filed by respondents, John Crane, Dan Jett, and Linda Jett ("the property owners"), who owned property near the location that was the subject of the permit. The Supreme Court found that when originally enacted, the Alabama Surface Mining Act did not include a venue provision. Alabama law was amended to specify that the proper venue for judicial review of a final Commission decision was "in the circuit court of the county in which the commission maintains its principal office." Under the plain language of the applicable statute, the only proper venue for the property owners' action was the Walker County circuit court. The property owners contended that, at the time they commenced their appeal with the Jefferson Circuit Court, the 2015 amendment to the applicable statute was not effective and the earlier version applied. Finding that the 2015 statute was properly enacted, the Supreme Court held "the effective date for such a change in state law should be the date determined by the Alabama Legislature, not the date of approval by the [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement]," thus the Commission and Black Warrior demonstrated a clear legal right to have their underlying action transferred to the Walker Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Alabama Surface Mining Commission." on Justia Law

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The Wilcox County Board of Education ("the Board"); Tyrone Yarbrough, individually and in his official capacity as the superintendent of the Board; and members of the Board Bernard Martin and Lester Turk, individually and in their official capacities, 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 and to enter an order dismissing with prejudice all claims against them. Reginald Southall was a teacher at Wilcox Central High School. During a meeting of the Board in April 2013, then Superintendent Yarbrough recommended the nonrenewal of Southall's probationary contract. Five Board members were present during the vote. Normally, the Board consists of six members. One seat on the Board, however, was vacant at the time of the April 2013 meeting, due to an order of the circuit court enjoining the Board from filling the vacant seat. Thus, the Board conducted business with only five members during the April 2013 meeting. Upon a motion to accept Yarbrough's recommendation, three Board members voted in favor of not renewing the contract, one member opposed the recommendation, and one member abstained. Southall filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a writ of mandamus, in which he asserted that, because of the vacancy on the Board, the termination of his employment was the result of an illegal vote of the Board in violation of 16-8-4, Ala. Code 1975. Under the limited circumstances of this particular case, a majority of the five members was all that was required to accept Yarbrough's recommendation not to renew Southall's probationary contract. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the petitioners demonstrated a clear legal right to the order sought. The Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order, and to enter an order dismissing the underlying action. View "Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education et al." on Justia Law

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Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC; Advanced Disposal Services Alabama Holdings, LLC; Tallassee Waste Disposal Center, Inc.; Advanced Disposal Services, Inc.; and Stone's Throw Landfill, LLC (collectively, "Advanced Disposal"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court either to join the City of Tallassee ("the City") as a necessary and indispensable party to the underlying action filed by Jerry Tarver, Sr., or, alternatively, to dismiss the action in its entirety, pursuant to Rule 19, Ala. R. Civ. P. The Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, making no determination whether joinder would be feasible or whether the City was an indispensable party. Tarver filed an application for rehearing, arguing in its September 28, 2018 opinion, the Supreme Court "recast" his claims to reach the conclusion that the City was a necessary party to this action. He argued that the Court's reasoning on original submission was dependent on the notion that he sought to address the whole of the effluent the City discharges into the Tallapoosa River ("the river") when, he claimed, he sought to enjoin only the quantity of the leachate Advanced Disposal deposited into the City's stabilization pond. Tarver then argued that not only did the Court's analysis depend on a recasting of his claims, but the Court also relied on facts not before the circuit court in support of that recasting, namely, "facts as to the percentage of the effluent attributable to [Advanced Disposal's] leachate compared to the percentage of the effluent attributable to other sources." In overruling Tarver's application, the Supreme Court held Tarver's arguments misapprehended its opinion; the figures cited in note 5 of the opinion on original submission were consistent with the allegations in the complaint that the stabilization pond treats "substantial amounts" of waste from parties other than Advanced Disposal. View "Ex parte Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC, et al." on Justia Law