Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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The Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief to direct the circuit court to dismiss a complaint against it filed by Bryan Grimmett. The Commission revoked Grimmett's law-enforcement certification. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed that portion of the trial court's judgment fully reinstating Grimmett's law-enforcement certification because Grimmett had conceded in the record that he had not satisfied the 80-hour refresher-training course required for reinstatement of his certification. At the time the Court of Civil Appeals issued its May 2017 opinion, the Commission had in place a rule requiring a previously certified law-enforcement officer absent from employment as a law-enforcement officer for two years or more to successfully complete an approved 80-hour academy recertification course. In October 2017, the Commission amended its rule on certification to include, among other things, a provision that, if the Commission approves an application for admission to certification training of a law-enforcement officer absent from law enforcement for more than 10 years, that applicant must satisfactorily complete the regular basic-training academy, which is a 520-hour course. It was undisputed that Grimmett had been not employed as a law-enforcement officer since 2000. Grimmett filed his complaint with the circuit court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Commission, asserting that he was provisionally offered a job in law enforcement in December 2017; that he attempted to enroll in the 80-hour refresher- training program; and that the Commission refused to allow him to enroll in the refresher-training program, instead requiring him to complete the full 520-hour basic-academy training course. The Commission moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Commission, as an agency of the State of Alabama, is entitled to sovereign immunity. Finding that the Commission established a clear legal right to mandamus relief, the Alabama Supreme Court granted its petition and directed the circuit court to dismiss Grimmett's complaint. View "Ex parte Ex parte Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission." on Justia Law

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In May 2017, Jerry Tarver, Sr., sued the Utilities Board of the City of Tuskegee ("UBT") and numerous other defendants seeking damages based on alleged exposure to contaminated water purportedly caused by defendants' combined and concurring negligence. The UBT petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Macon Circuit Court to vacate its December 2017 order disqualifying UBT's retained counsel, Huie, Fernambucq & Steward, LLP (the Huie Firm) from representing it in Tarver's suit. The Supreme Court determined Tarver did not present evidence indicating that a Huie firm lawyer, in his capacity as a commissioner of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, was a conflict of interest regarding the attorney's representation of UBT. Therefore, the attorney was not disqualified under Rule 1.11(a), Ala. R. Prof. Cond., and no disqualification could be imputed to the Huie firm. View "Ex parte Utilities Board of the City of Tuskegee." on Justia Law

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Defendants collectively referred to as "Advanced Disposal" petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief to direct the circuit court to either join the City of Tallassee as a necessary and indispensable party, or dismiss this suit entirely. Advanced Disposal entered into an "Agreement for Acceptance and Treatment of Leachate" with the City ("the agreement") in which the City agreed to accept and treat, for a fee, leachate from Advanced Disposal's landfill. After the City accepts title to the leachate, it treats the leachate with chlorine at its stabilization pond. The City then discharges the effluent into the Tallapoosa River ("the river") pursuant to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit ("the NPDES permit"). The effluent mixes with the river water, which flows several miles downstream to the intake point for the Utilities Board of Tuskegee ("the utilities board"), which treats the river water with chlorine and uses other methods to prepare the water for consumption by its consumers, including the plaintiff, Jerry Tarver, Sr. In May 2017, Tarver sued Advanced Disposal, the utilities board, and fictitiously named defendants seeking monetary damages as well as injunctive relief for exposure to allegedly contaminated water that had been illegally "discharged" into the river and ultimately sold by the utilities board for consumption by its customers. Although the Supreme Court concluded the City was a necessary party to Tarver's action, it could not determine whether its joinder is feasible, insofar as the City, once joined, might object to venue in Macon County. Accordingly, the Court issued the writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to join the City as a necessary party under Rule 19(a). If the City, once joined, objects to venue, Rule 19(a) requires the trial court to dismiss it from the action and then proceed under Rule 19(b) to determine, in accordance with the stated factors, "whether in equity and good conscience the action should proceed among the parties before it, or should be dismissed, the [City] being thus regarded as indispensable." View "Ex parte Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Teresa Gilland petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to grant her motion to dismiss claims filed against her by Diane McCain on the basis of state-agent immunity. McCain, a resident of Jasper, Alabama, was attacked and bitten by a German Shepherd owned by her neighbor, Robert Barton. McCain sued Barton; the City of Jasper ("the City"); Sonny Posey, then mayor of the City; Joe Matthews, director of the City's Public Works Department; Russell Smallwood, superintendent of the City's Street Department; and Gilland, an animal-control officer employed by the City. McCain raised negligence and wantonness claims against Gilland for Gilland's alleged breach of "a duty to ... enforce animal control policies designed to protect the public from dogs running at large." The Alabama Supreme Court determined Gilland demonstrated that she had a clear legal right to the dismissal of McCain's claims against her based on State-agent immunity. The Court therefore granted the petition and issued the writ directing the trial court to dismiss Gilland from the case. View "Ex parte Teresa Gilland." on Justia Law

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The Town of Dauphin Island ("the Town") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from a circuit court order denying its motion for summary judgment on recreational-use grounds, and asked for entry of summary judgment in its favor on claims brought by Bobbi Rogers individually, and as next friend to her minor daughter Rebecca Hatem. Rebecca sat on a tree swing located in a Town park when she was injured by the limb on which the swing was hanging. She suffered a compound fracture to her leg. Finding that constructive knowledge of the swing's potential danger was not sufficient under the recreational use statutes to hold the Town liable for Rebecca's injury. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined the Town established a clear legal right to the relief sought, and granted the writ. The circuit court was directed to grant summary judgment in favor of the Town. View "Ex parte Town of Dauphin Island." on Justia Law

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Terri Bargsley filed a negligence and wantonness action against the Birmingham Airport Authority ("the BAA") seeking to recover damages for injuries Bargsley allegedly incurred in a fall at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport ("the airport"), which the BAA managed and operated. The BAA filed a motion to dismiss Bargsley's tort action, claiming that it was entitled to immunity under various sections of the Alabama Code 1975. The circuit court granted the BAA's motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. The circuit court determined that the BAA was entitled to immunity from Bargsley's negligence claim but that it was not entitled to immunity from Bargsley's wantonness claim. The BAA then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate the portion of its order denying the BAA's motion to dismiss as to Bargsley's wantonness claim and to enter an order dismissing Bargsley's wantonness claim. Finding that the BAA demonstrated it had a clear legal right to a dismissal of Bargsley's tort action, including the wantonness claim, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. The circuit court was ordered to grant the BAA's motion to dismiss in its entirety. View "Ex parte Birmingham Airport Authority." on Justia Law

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D.A.R. appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing his complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. D.A.R., a licensed attorney practicing in Alabama, filed a complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. R.E.L. was also a licensed attorney, and was employed as an assistant general counsel for the Alabama State Bar ("the ASB"). D.H. and R.H. were brothers; they were not attorneys. According to the complaint, at some point before December 2007, R.E.L. and D.H. began "a personal, professional and/or sexual relationship," and R.E.L. and R.H. began "a personal and/or professional relationship." D.A.R. alleged that in December 2007, at R.E.L.'s recommendation and with his assistance, D.H. and R.H. "filed a baseless complaint against [D.A.R.] with the ASB." D.A.R. alleged that the motivation for the complaint was to use it "as a means to protect [D.H. and R.H.] from liability for a debt owed by [them] to a client represented by [D.A.R.] and/or as retaliation for his role in representing that client." According to D.A.R., R.E.L. knew when it was filed that the complaint against D.A.R. was baseless in fact and in law. R.E.L. asserted the defense of absolute immunity, but presented arguments to the trial court establishing why quasi-judicial immunity should apply to the facts presented in D.A.R.'s complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found D.A.R. failed to demonstrate the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint on the grounds he presented to it, and as such, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "D. A. R. v. R.E.L., D.H., and R.H." on Justia Law

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Police officer Charday Shavers and the City of Montgomery ("City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for a summary judgment in a tort action filed against them by Carlishia Frank and to enter a summary judgment for them. In 2013, Shavers was driving her patrol car when she received a dispatch about a vehicular accident. Shavers activated her siren and proceeded through an intersection. As Shavers's patrol car began to cross the intersection, Frank's vehicle entered the intersection and collided with the driver's side of Shavers's patrol car. The collision occurred between four and five seconds after Shavers began slowly proceeding into the intersection, approximately nine seconds after Shavers had activated her emergency lights and approximately five seconds after she had activated her siren. Shavers and the City moved for summary judgment on immunity grounds. Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion, the Alabama Supreme Court found mandamus relief was warranted here. The Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for summary judgment, and to enter an order granting that motion. View "Ex parte City of Montgomery and Charday P. Shavers." on Justia Law