Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
Courtyard Manor Homeowners’ Association, Inc. v. City of Pelham
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
Ex parte S. Mark Booth.
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
Ex parte City of Tuskegee.
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
Wiggins v. City of Evergreen
The City of Evergreen, Alabama ("the City") terminated the employment of Helen Wiggins, a warrant clerk and magistrate, after the Evergreen City Council ("the Council") accepted the recommendation of the City's mayor that she be dismissed for dereliction of duty. Specifically, the City alleged she failed to perform the duties of her job as a warrant clerk and magistrate on February 16, 2017, when she declined to consider a citizen's application for arrest warrants, instead telling that citizen to return in several hours when another warrant clerk and magistrate would be there. Wiggins thereafter filed a wrongful-termination action against the City. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment in favor of the City and against Wiggins. She appealed that judgment. Because there was evidence in the record that supported the City's decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held the trial court properly entered a judgment in favor of the City. View "Wiggins v. City of Evergreen" on Justia Law
Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al.
Plaintiffs Startley General Contractors, Inc. ("Startley"), and Mandy Powrzanas, appealed the denial of their renewed motion to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance, Jr. recuse himself from the underlying action the plaintiffs filed against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("BWWB"), Board members, Jones Utility and Contracting Co., Inc., and Richard Jones (collectively, “defendants.”). Plaintiffs alleged the defendants conspired to violate Alabama's competitive-bid law in ways that resulted in financial harm to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended that Judge Vance had received monetary contributions to his 2018 campaign for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from law firms and attorneys representing the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the renewed motion to recuse did not fall under the auspices of section 12–24–3, Ala. Code 1975, because it was not based on campaign contributions in "the immediately preceding election." Moreover, “even if [section] 12–24–3 did apply, the plaintiffs failed to establish a rebuttable presumption for recusal because, in order to meet the required threshold, the plaintiffs: (1) included contributions from law firms and individuals who were not ‘parties,’ as that term is defined in 12–24–3(c), to the case; (2) aggregated campaign contributions from multiple parties in contravention to 12–24–3(b) addressing campaign contributions made by ‘a party to the judge or justice’; and (3) incorrectly assumed that ‘total campaign contributions raised during the election cycle’ refers to one-month totals for campaign contributions rather than the ordinary meaning of an ‘election cycle,’ which concerns a longer period.” The Court concluded plaintiffs did not establish that a single, actual "party" to this case gave a "substantial campaign contribution" that would give rise to the conclusion that "[a] reasonable person would perceive that [Judge Vance's] ability to carry out his ... judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired." View "Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee of any specific residential mortgage-backed security
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
Phoenix East Association, Inc. v. Perdido Dunes Tower, LLC, et al.
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
W.R. Meriwether, Factors and Drayage, LLC v. Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority
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
Ex parte State of Alabama.
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
State of Alabama ex rel. Waterworks and Gas Board of Dora, Alabama v. Edwards
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