Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Defendant Cheryl Price and Greg Lovelace petitioned for mandamus relief. Price was formerly the warden at Donaldson Correctional Facility ("the prison"), which was operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC"). Lovelace was a deputy commissioner of the DOC in charge of construction and maintenance. Plaintiff Marcus Parrish was a correctional officer employed by the DOC. Parrish was supervising inmate showers in a segregation unit in the prison. Parrish left the shower area briefly to retrieve shaving trimmers, and, when he returned, inmate Rashad Byers had already entered a shower cell, which had an exterior lock on it. Byers indicated that he was finished with his shower, and Parrish told him to turn around to be handcuffed, then approached Byers's shower door with the key to the lock on the door in his hand. Byers unexpectedly opened the door, exited the shower cell, and attacked Parrish. During the attack, Byers took Parrish's baton from him and began striking Parrish with it. Parrish was knocked unconscious, and he sustained injuries to his head. Parrish sued Price and Lovelace in their official capacities. Parrish later filed an amended complaint naming Price and Lovelace as defendants in their individual capacities only (thus, it appears that Price and Lovelace were sued only in their individual capacities). Parrish alleged that Price and Lovelace willfully breached their duties by failing to monitor the prison for unsafe conditions and by failing to repair or replace the allegedly defective locks. Price and Lovelace moved for a summary judgment, asserting, among other things, that they are entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied the summary-judgment motion, concluding, without elaboration, that genuine issues of material fact existed to preclude a summary judgment. Price and Lovelace then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that they were immune from liability. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Price and Lovelace established they were entitled to State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in their favor. View "Ex parte Cheryl Price & Greg Lovelace." on Justia Law

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This was the second time this dispute related to benefits provided under the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan ("PEEHIP") went before the Alabama Supreme Court. In the present case, the remaining defendants below, David Bronner, as secretary-treasurer of PEEHIP, and the current members of the PEEHIP Board, petitioned for permission to appeal the trial court's denial of their motion seeking a summary judgment. "When a trial court fails to correctly identify the controlling question of law, a Rule 5 permissive appeal is due to be dismissed." After thoroughly reviewing the record and the arguments presented by the parties, the Supreme Court concluded the permission to appeal under Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., was improvidently granted, and the Court dismissed the appeal. View "Bronner v. Burks" on Justia Law

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Petitioners-defendants Angela McClintock, Stephanie Streeter, and Christa Devaughn, all of whom were employees of the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("JCDHR"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Charges arose from the death of K.W., a newborn who was removed from her home following domestic abuse allegations at the home of T.H., K.W.’s mother. At the time of K.W.'s death, McClintock was the director of JCDHR; Streeter was an assistant director of child welfare for JCDHR; and Devaughn was a child-abuse and neglect investigative worker for JCDHR. In June 2011, T.H. was charged with third-degree domestic violence when S.W., T.H.'s mother, filed charges against her for striking a sibling in the face. K.W. was born in December 2011. While T.H. was still in the hospital, T.H.'s grandmother reported to JCDHR that she had concerns that T.H. would not be able to care for her new baby, that T.H. had left her father's home, and that T.H. had a history of running away. After conducting an investigation, JCDHR allowed T.H. to be discharged from the hospital to the home of K.M., T.H.'s second cousin. K.H., T.H.'s father, filed a dependency complaint, seeking custody of K.W. In January 2012, Devaughn filed a dependency complaint as to T.H. and a request for a pickup order for K.W. K.W. was picked up and placed in the foster home of Dennis Gilmer on that same date. K.W. died on February 24, 2012, while in foster care. K.H. and T.H. filed a complaint against the petitioners, Brandon Hardin, Dennis Gilmer, and JCDHR, stating claims of wrongful death of a minor, negligence, wantonness, and negligent/wanton training and supervision. The Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted their petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Angela McClintock et al." on Justia Law

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Clinton Carter, in his official capacity as Director of Finance of the State of Alabama, and Chris Roberts, in his official capacity as director of the Alabama Office of Indigent Defense Services petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jackson Circuit Court to transfer the underlying action to Montgomery County, where, they argued, venue was proper. In January 2015, the Jackson Court, pursuant to section 15-12-21, Ala. Code 1975, appointed two attorneys to represent Barry Van Whitton, an indigent, in a noncapital-murder case. While the criminal case against Whitton was pending, the attorneys filed a motion seeking a declaration that section 15-12-21 was unconstitutional; an order allowing them to exceed the statutory fee cap set in the statute; and, in the alternative, an order reimbursing them for their overhead expenses incurred in the defense of the case. The trial court entered an order, which, among other things, declared section 15-12-21 unconstitutional and "no longer of any force or effect" ("the Whitton order). The attorney general did not appeal the Whitton order or otherwise challenge it. The issue presented in this petition did not concern the validity of the Whitton order or whether that order was enforceable. Rather, the only issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether venue for the civil action was proper in Montgomery County. The civil action was brought against the State defendants in their official capacities, and there was no waiver of objections to venue in the civil action. Thus, under the Court's holding in "Ex parte Neely," it concluded the State defendants demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Clinton Carter" on Justia Law

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James Wood, a retired circuit court judge, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of: the State of Alabama; Luther Strange, in his capacity as Attorney General for the State of Alabama; David Bronner, in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama; the Board of Control of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama ("the Board of Control"); and Thomas White, Jr., in his capacity as Comptroller for the State of Alabama. At issue were increases in the rates of contributions judges and justices are required to pay into the Judicial Retirement Fund ("the Fund"), pursuant to section 12- 18-5, Ala. Code 1975. The Fund was established under the provisions of Act No. 1163, Ala. Acts 1973, codified at section 12- 18-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, to provide retirement benefits to qualified judges and justices. Judge Wood was serving his second official term when increases in contribution rates took effect. Judge Wood retired on January 15, 2013. In June 2012, Judge Wood, individually, and on behalf of a purported class of "all members" of the Fund, sued the State defendants, alleging that the mandatory increases in contributions to the Fund reduced Judge Wood's net pay without affording him any additional retirement benefits. He alleged that the increases in contributions violated the Judicial Compensation Clause of Art. VI, section 148(d), Constitution of Alabama of 1901 ("the Compensation Clause"). In his complaint, Judge Wood sought a judgment declaring the Act unconstitutional as violative of the Compensation Clause. Because Judge Wood's claim for money damages was not shown to be within the Alabama Supreme Court's subject-matter jurisdiction and his claim for prospective injunctive relief was moot, also defeating subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court did not address the constitutionality of the Act. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court's judgment upholding the Act against Judge Wood's constitutional challenge was void. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal, vacated the summary judgment in favor of the State defendants, and dismissed the action for failure to establish subject-matter jurisdiction as to the claim for monetary damages and on the basis of mootness as to the claim for prospective injunctive relief. View "Wood v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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Sheila Ingle ("Ingle") appealed a circuit court order dismissing her claims against Jason Adkins, individually and in his capacity as superintendent of the Walker County School System; the Walker County Board of Education ("the Board"); and Bradley Ingle, William Gilbert, Dennis Reeves, James Rigsby, and Sonia Waid, members of the Board. Ingle brought this action "in the name of the State of Alabama on the relation of Sheila Mote Ingle ... in her individual capacity as a resident citizen and taxpayer in Walker County, Alabama." Ingle sought a declaration that Adkins's July 2013 salary increase was unconstitutional, illegal, and void; that the December 2014 "employment contract" was unconstitutional, illegal, and void; and that the November 2015 modification of the employment contract was unconstitutional, illegal, and void. Ingle sought to compel the Board members "to vacate and/or rescind" the "employment contract." Further, Ingle sought to recover for the taxpayers of Walker County the allegedly illegal compensation that had already been paid to Adkins, and she sought to recover on her own behalf attorney fees. Additionally, Ingle alleged that, even if the employment contract was not determined to be unconstitutional and void, the Board had overpaid Adkins's travel stipend, and, thus, Ingle sought to recover that overpayment. Later, Ingle amended her petition to withdraw her claim for attorney fees. The Alabama Supreme Court has held that taxpayers have standing to seek an injunction against public officials to prevent illegal payments from public funds. “This standing is based on the fact that taxpayers have an equitable ownership in the public funds and will be responsible for replenishing the public funds if those funds are misappropriated, and, thus, a taxpayer suffers an injury when public funds are illegally spent.” The Court determined that Ingle had standing as a taxpayer to seek an injunction against Adkins and the Board members in their official capacities. The Court reversed the circuit court’s order dismissing Ingle’s claims against the Board members and Adkins with respect to Adkins’ then-current agreement with the Board. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ingle v. Adkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Frank and Martha Buck, challenged the Court of Civil Appeals’ decision to affirm the trial court's judgment in favor of defendants CH Highland, LLC (“Highland”) and the City of Birmingham (“City”) in their challenge to a City rezoning ordinance. The Bucks owned property in the City. Highland, a real-estate-development company, wanted to build a multistory apartment complex ("the project") on property located adjacent to the Bucks' property. As planned, the project did not conform with the then existing zoning restrictions for the area in which the subject property was located. Thus, Highland submitted a rezoning application to the Zoning Advisory Committee of the Birmingham Planning Commission. Highland requested that the subject property be rezoned from a "B-2 general business district" to a "B-3 community business district" so that it could construct the project. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the proposed rezoning ordinance that was published merely indicated to the public that there would be a zoning change from a B-2 district to a B-3 district. Ordinance 1949-G did not create a B-3 district; instead, it created a district of a substantially smaller range of uses than what was otherwise disclosed to the public in the Public Notice of the rezoning change. “Even if this Court were to reject the long-standing rule that, to invalidate an ordinance, it is unnecessary for the public to be prejudiced by the City's failure to publish the ordinance, we cannot presume that no prejudice occurred in this case.” The Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Buck." on Justia Law

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Conecuh Timber, Inc., Ayres Forestry, Inc., BAR Forest Products, LLC, Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., Pea River Timber Company, Inc., Pineville Timber Co., LLC, and THE Timber Company, LLC ("TTC") (collectively referred to as "the wood dealers"), sued Alabama River Group, Inc. ("ARG"), and ARG's chairman and chief executive officer George Landegger, asserting various claims arising from transactions between the wood dealers and ARG's predecessors; the transactions were affected by a short-lived subsidy program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency ("the FSA") known as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program ("BCAP"). Following a jury trial, a judgment was entered against the ARG defendants awarding the wood dealers $1,092,692.71 in compensatory damages and $7,000,000 in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the punitive-damages award by virtue of the statutory cap in section 6- 11-21, Ala. Code 1975, resulting in a total judgment of $6,395,489.37. The ARG defendants filed post-trial motions, which, after a hearing, the trial court denied. The ARG defendants appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment as to liability and compensatory damages. The Court affirmed the punitive damages awarded to Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., and to Conecuh Timber, Inc. With respect to the punitive-damages awards of the remaining wood dealers, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed on the condition that those wood dealers file a remittitur of the punitive-damages awards to a 3:1 ratio to the Supreme Court. Should any wood dealer fail to timely file the respective remittitur, the judgment as to that wood dealer would be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. View "Alabama River Group, Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc. et al" on Justia Law

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Terrence Venter and the City of Selma ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to direct the Dallas Circuit Court to vacate its February 20, 2017, order denying their motion for a summary judgment based on Venter's State-agent immunity and to enter an order based on that defense. In 2008, Aubrey Vick was killed when the vehicle he was driving collided with a fire truck being driven by Venter. Mary Vick, as administrator of Aubrey's estate ("the estate"), filed a wrongful-death complaint against Venter and the City, alleging Venter, "while acting in the line and scope of his employment with the City of Selma's fire department, and operating a vehicle owned by the City of Selma, negligently drove the vehicle into the vehicle owned by plaintiff's decedent." The estate claimed that the City was vicariously liable for Venter's alleged negligence. The complaint also alleged the City had negligently installed, maintained, and/or designed the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred. After review of the facts of this case, the Supreme Court determined the trial court properly denied Venter and the City's motion, and denied their petition. View "Ex parte Terrence Venter & City of Selma." on Justia Law

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Walker Brothers Investment, Inc., and James Walker (collectively, "Walker Brothers") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a summary judgment in favor of the City of Mobile ("the City"). In 2012, the City filed a complaint against Walker Brothers seeking a preliminary and a permanent injunction, alleging Walker Brothers owned a building, known as the Tobin Building, located in a historic district in downtown Mobile and that Walker Brothers had allowed the building to deteriorate in violation of the Mobile City Code. The City asked the circuit court to enter an order requiring Walker Brothers to "mothball" the Tobin Building in accordance with plans submitted by Walker Brothers and subsequently approved by the Board. Walker Brothers argued that the City, through the HDC and the Board, had treated Walker Brothers unequally from other developers of historic properties, and it alleged that the City had engaged in selective enforcement of the City's rules and regulations in a manner that "amounted to malicious prosecution and abuse of process." Walker Brothers filed an objection to the City's motion to dismiss, stating that it had intentionally left part of the mothballing plan uncomplete so that it could file a counterclaim against the City. The circuit court purported to grant the City's motion to dismiss later the same day. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Walker Brothers’ appeal, finding the City's "motion to dismiss" was a valid notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i), and, the circuit court was without the power to act on Walker Brothers' attempt to reinstate the City's action so that Walker Brothers could file a counterclaim. Accordingly, any order entered after the City filed its notice of dismissal was void, including the summary judgment in favor of the City that was the basis of Walker Brothers' appeal to the Supreme Court. View "Walker Brothers Investment, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law