Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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Deborah Barnhart, Brooke Balch, and Vickie Henderson, current and former officers of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. The Commission sought to have the circuit court dismiss the claims asserted against them in the underlying class action or, in the alternative, to vacate the order certifying those claims for class-action treatment. The Commission is required by law to maintain records of its revenue and expenditures and to periodically make those records available for audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts ("DEPA"). After an audit, DEPA determined the Commission had not complied with Alabama law (1) in its payment of annual longevity bonuses to Commission employees and (2) in the manner it compensated Commission employees for working on certain State holidays. The Commission disagreed with the results of the audit; none of the recommended changes were made, and as a result, several former Commission employees sued the Commission and the Commission officers, alleging that the plaintiffs, as well as other past and present Commission employees, had not received all the compensation to which they were entitled during their tenures as Commission employees. The Supreme Court determined the Commission did not establish the named plaintiffs’ retrospective relief and declaratory relief claims were barred by the doctrine of State immunity, and the trial court did not err by dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, the individual-capacities claims were barred inasmuch as those claims were essentially claims against the State regardless of the manner in which they have been asserted, and the trial court accordingly erred by not dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Further, the named plaintiffs met their burden for class certification, and the trial court did not exceed its discretion by certifying their retrospective-relief and declaratory-relief claims for class-action treatment. Accordingly, the trial court's order certifying this action for class treatment was reversed insofar as it certified the individual-capacities claims; in all other respects it was affirmed. View "Barnhart v. Ingalls" on Justia Law

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The underlying case concerned a dispute between Allen and Nina Kennemer and the Shelby County Board of Equalization as to the assessed value of real property owned by the Kennemers. The Board informed the Kennemers, by notice dated May 31, 2016, that it had ruled that the fixed value of the property was $122,700 for purposes of assessment. According to the Kennemers, however, the "true and fair value" of the property was $89,405.50. The Kennemers petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review whether the Court of Civil Appeals' affirmance, without an opinion, the Circuit Court's dismissal of their appeal of the Board's decision. The Kennemers contended the appellate court's decision conflicted with Shoals Mill Development, Ltd. v. Shelby County Board of Equalization, 238 So. 3d 1253 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). The Supreme Court agreed: the mailbox rule applied to the filing of a notice of appeal with the Board under section 40-3-25. Accordingly, the Kennemers' notice of appeal was timely filed with the Board, and the circuit court erred in dismissing their appeal of the Board's May 2016 ruling. View "Ex parte Allen Kennemer and Nina Kennemer." on Justia Law