Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
by
GEICO Insurance Company appealed a trial court judgment entered in favor of plaintiffs Johnson Evans, Jimmy Smith, and Bernard Smith on plaintiffs' claims for damages resulting from an automobile accident caused by GEICO's insured, Bernard Grey. GEICO argued that the April 17, 2019, judgment entered against it was void because it did not receive notice of plaintiffs' claims against it or notice of the hearing on plaintiffs' claims. For their part, plaintiffs did not dispute that GEICO never received actual notice of any action pending against it in the present case. Instead, they argued GEICO had "constructive notice of potential litigation" because it had actual notice of Grey's accident involving plaintiffs -- which occurred in 2010 -- and that GEICO was aware that plaintiffs claimed to be injured by Grey's actions. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with GEIDO that "constructive notice of potential litigation" clearly fell short of "even the most basic requirements of due process." Because it was undisputed GEICO never received notice of any claim pending against it, the April 17 judgment violated due process, and was therefore void. Because a void judgment would not support an appeal, the trial court was instructed to vacate its judgment, and GEICO's appeal was thus dismissed. View "GEICO Insurance Co. v. Evans" on Justia Law

by
The State of Alabama, on the relation of Shirley Williams-Scott, appealed a circuit court order denying Williams-Scott's petition for a writ of quo warranto seeking to declare that Eddie Penny did not hold office as the mayor of the City of Fairfield. The 2010 federal census indicated that the population of Fairfield had dropped below 12,000. A statutory provision stated that, "[i]n all towns or cities, a majority of the whole number of members to which such corporation is entitled, including the mayor in towns and cities of less than 12,000 population, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum." In the 2016 election cycle, Ed May II was elected to the position of mayor of Fairfield, and Penny was elected to the position of council president. It is undisputed that May did not attend any council meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning October 1, 2018. During its January 22, 2019 meeting, the city council approved a resolution providing that May was removed from office of mayor as a matter of law. Penny was subsequently proclaimed mayor by a vote of the council. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not err in denying Williams-Scott's petition for a writ of quo warranto seeking to declare Penny was not mayor of Fairfield. View "State ex rel. Williams-Scott v. Penny" on Justia Law

by
The City of Daphne ("the City") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of David and Sarah Fannon, in an action seeking damages pursuant to section 235, Ala. Const. 1901, for the taking of, injury to, or destruction of the Fannons' property for public use. In 1990, the Fannons purchased an unimproved lot on Lovett Lane in Daphne and constructed a house on that lot. To the north of, and parallel to, their lot was a 30-foot right- of-way that was owned by the City. A streambed that was approximately three feet wide meandered along the right-of-way, partially onto the Fannons' lot, and back into the right-of-way and then into Mobile Bay. Also, the right-of-way was wooded and heavily covered with vegetation. The Fannons placed an 18-inch-diameter PVC pipe under the foundation of their house and along the path of the streambed where it meandered onto their lot so that the water would continue to flow into the Bay. Over time, the City made changes to the right-of-way, taking out vegetation and covered it with sand and riprap. Years later, City workers removed the riprap and installed a pipe that dumped into the streamed near the Fannons' property. This changed the water flow around the Fannon property, causing washout and flooding due to increased velocity of water flowing through the City's pipe. A jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the Fannons, awarding them compensatory damages on their inverse-condemnation claim. The City appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concurred with the trial court on the trial court's judgment with respect to trespass and negligence; it reversed, however, with respect to inverse-condemnation and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Daphne v. Fannon" on Justia Law

by
The State of Alabama appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of the City of Birmingham and its mayor, Randall Woodfin. The State sued the City claiming the mayor violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act by allowing a plywood screen to be erected around a 40-year-old confederate monument. The pertinent part of the Act the State alleged Birmingham violated was that "no monument which [was] located on public property and has been so situated for 40 or more years may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, or otherwise disturbed." The circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of the City defendants, holding that the Act was unconstitutional because it violated the City's purported rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and it was thus void in its entirety. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to the circuit court to enter an order declaring that the City defendants' actions constituted a violation of section 41-9-232(a) of the Act and imposing a fine on the City defendants in the amount of $25,000. View "Alabama v. City of Birmingham" on Justia Law

by
Darrio Melton, as mayor of the City of Selma ("the city"), appealed a judgment entered in favor of the members of the Selma City Council. In September 2018, the council adopted Ordinance No. O108-17/18 giving the council the power to appoint the city's tax collector, chief of police, and chief of the fire department "in accordance and pursuant to [section] 11-43-5, [Ala. Code 1975]." The mayor vetoed the ordinance shortly after it was passed by the council. However, the council later overrode the mayor's veto, making the ordinance a part of the city's municipal code. In his complaint, the mayor alleged that the ordinance violates § 11-43-8l, Ala. Code 1975, which provides, in part, that the mayor "shall have the power to appoint all officers [of the city or town] whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by law." The mayor sought a judgment declaring the ordinance invalid; the complaint also sought preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing the implementation of the ordinance. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Melton v. Bowie, et al." on Justia Law

by
Trinity Property Consultants, LLC ("Trinity Property"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals holding that Trinity Property failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Brittony Mays had been properly served in an eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, section 35- 9A-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. In 2018, the District Court entered a default judgment against Mays in the eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property. Mays moved the district court, pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., to set aside the default judgment on the basis that she had not been served with the complaint in the action; that motion was denied. Mays appealed the denial of the Rule 60(b)(4) motion to the Shelby Circuit Court; that court dismissed her appeal as untimely filed. Mays moved the circuit court, pursuant to Rule 59(e), Ala. R. Civ. P., to reinstate the appeal and to stay the execution of the default judgment. Trinity Property responded with an affidavit from the process server, who averred in relevant part he posted and mailed the summons and complaint when he did not receive a response from knocking on Mays’ front door. Mays's position was that merely knocking on the door, without more, was not a "reasonable effort" at personal service. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the process server’s effort at obtaining personal service was reasonable, the alternative method of service satisfied the requirements of due process. The Court reversed judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Trinity Property Consultants, LLC." on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from the adoption of "Baby Doe" by his adoptive mother, K.G.S., which was contested by Baby Doe's birth mother, K.R. ("the birth mother"). Details of that contested adoption were reported by the Huffington Post, a Web-based media outlet, and were also disseminated through a Facebook social-media page devoted to having Baby Doe returned to the birth mother. K.G.S. filed an action in Alabama circuit court seeking, among other things, an injunction against Facebook, Inc., and certain individuals to prohibit the dissemination of information about the contested adoption of Baby Doe. These appeals followed the entry of a preliminary injunction granting K.G.S. the relief she sought. In appeal no. 1170244, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the preliminary injunction entered against Facebook was void for lack of personal jurisdiction; therefore, Facebook's appeal of the preliminary injunction was dismissed and the trial court was instructed to dismiss K.G.S.'s claims against Facebook. In appeal no. 1170294, the Supreme Court reversed the order entering the preliminary injunction against defendant Renee Gelin was reversed for lack of notice, and the case was remanded with instructions to the trial court to dissolve the preliminary injunction issued against Gelin. In appeal no. 1170336, the Supreme Court reversed the preliminary injunction against Kim McLeod, and remanded this case with instructions to the trial court to dissolve the preliminary injunction issued against McLeod. View "Facebook, Inc. v. K.G.S." on Justia Law

by
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

by
Crystal Wayne petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for review of the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision affirming, by an unpublished memorandum, a circuit court's revocation of Wayne's probation. Wayne was convicted of second-degree manufacturing of a controlled substance, a Class B felony. She was sentenced Wayne to 60 months' imprisonment, which sentence was split, and she was ordered to serve 18 months' imprisonment, followed by 36 months' supervised probation. The circuit court further ordered Wayne to pay $4,799 in various fees and costs. Four months later, Wayne's probation officer filed a delinquency report alleging that Wayne had violated the terms and conditions of her probation by failing to report to her probation officer as directed, by failing to pay supervision fees, by failing to pay court-ordered moneys, and by failing to report to the court referral officer ("CRO"). The Supreme Court granted certiorari review to consider whether Wayne received adequate notice of the State's charge that Wayne had violated her probation by absconding. The Supreme Court determined Wayne's constitutional right to receive written notice of the charges against her was violated insofar as she did not receive notice that absconding was being alleged as a probation violation, and the circuit court exceeded its discretion in revoking her probation on the basis that she had absconded. The Court of Criminal Appeals' was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Crystal Joetta Wayne." on Justia Law

by
In March 2004, Antonio Jones was convicted of capital murder for the intentional killing of Ruth Kirkland during the course of a burglary. The jury recommended, by a vote of 11 to 1, that Jones be sentenced to death. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Jones to death. In January 2009, Jones filed a Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P., petition to challenge conviction and sentence. In 2014, the trial court entered an order summarily dismissing Jones's Rule 32 petition. Jones appealed the dismissal of his Rule 32 petition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Jones's appeal in accordance with that court's decision in Loggins v. Alabama, 910 So. 2d 146 (Ala Crim. App. 2005), and the Court of Civil Appeals' decision in K.P. v. Madison County Department of Human Resources, 243 So. 3d 835 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). Jones then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing that the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissing his appeal of the dismissal of his Rule 32 petition conflicted with the Supreme Court's decisions interpreting Rule 29, Ala. R. Crim. P. The Supreme Court determined the record conclusively established a timely order reinstating Jones's Rule 32 petition was issued on September 7, 2010, two days before the trial court was to lose jurisdiction to rule on Jones's postjudgment motion to reinstate the petition. The order itself was dated and signed on September 7, 2010. When it was discovered that the circuit clerk had failed to timely enter the order reinstating Jones's Rule 32 petition, the same order was forwarded again to the circuit clerk to be entered, which the clerk did on September 29, 2010. "[T]he trial court's order granting Jones's Rule 29 motion in this case did not alter the date on which the order was rendered. . . . it simply corrects the circuit clerk's ministerial error in failing to timely enter the order, so that the record accurately reflects Justice Kennedy's original order reinstating Jones's Rule 32 petition as having been rendered on September 7, 2010." Accordingly, the trial court did not err in granting Jones's Rule 29 motion to reflect that the order rendered on September 7, 2010, reinstating Jones's Rule 32 petition was entered by the trial court effective on that same date. The Court of Criminal Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Antonio Devoe Jones." on Justia Law