Hudson v. Ivey
|24 March 2023
|Tiara Young Hudson v. Kay Ivey, in her official capacity as Governor of Alabama; Patrick Tuten, in his official capacity as appointee to a circuit- court judgeship in the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit; and Tom Parker, in his official capacity as Chair of the Judicial Resources Allocation Commission
|Alabama Supreme Court
Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-22-900892)
This case concerns the reallocation of a circuit-court judgeship from the 10th Judicial Circuit located in Jefferson County to the 23d Judicial Circuit located in Madison County. Tiara Young Hudson, an attorney residing in Jefferson County, had been a candidate for appointment and election to the Jefferson County judgeship before its reallocation to Madison County. In response to the reallocation of that judgeship Hudson initiated an action in the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") seeking a judgment declaring that the act providing for the reallocation of judgeships § 12-9A-1 et seq. ("the Act"), Ala. Code 1975 violated certain provisions of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Hudson also sought a permanent injunction removing the Madison County circuit judge that had been appointed to fill the reallocated judgeship from office and directing the governor to appoint a new person nominated by the Jefferson County Judicial Commission to fill the judgeship in Jefferson County. The trial court dismissed the action on the ground that it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the requested relief. We affirm.
On May 24, 2022, Hudson won the Democratic Party primary election to be that party's nominee for the Place 14 circuit-court judgeship in the criminal division of Alabama's 10th Judicial Circuit for a term beginning in January 2023. On June 1, 2022, then Place 14 circuit judge Clyde Jones retired, leaving a vacancy in the Place 14 judgeship. In response to that vacancy, on June 9, 2022, the Alabama Judicial Resources Allocation Commission ("the Commission") convened and, pursuant to powers granted it by the Act, voted to reallocate the Place 14 judgeship from 10th Judicial Circuit, the circuit least in need of an additional circuit-court judgeship according to a formal judicial-caseload study, to the 23d Judicial Circuit, the circuit most in need of an additional judgeship according to the same study. On July 18, 2022, Governor Kay Ivey appointed Judge Patrick Tuten, then a district judge in Madison County, to fill the newly reallocated circuit-court judgeship, a position he assumed the next day.
On July 19, 2022, several hours after Tuten had taken the oath of office, Hudson filed a complaint in the trial court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The only three defendants named in the action were Governor Ivey, who has the authority to make appointments to fill judicial vacancies; Chief Justice Tom Parker, who is the chair of the Commission; and Tuten. Specifically, Hudson asserted that the Act represented an unconstitutional delegation of the legislative authority to establish circuit-court judgeships and requested the following relief:
The defendants jointly moved to dismiss the action based on three main grounds. First, they argued that the trial court lacked subjectmatter jurisdiction because a quo warranto action -- not a declaratory-judgment action -- provided the exclusive remedy under the circumstances. Second, the defendants argued that Hudson lacked standing because she had not suffered an injury in fact and because, the defendants claimed, her purported injury was neither caused by nor capable of being redressed by the named defendants. Finally, the defendants contended that Hudson had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the legislature had lawfully empowered the Commission to reallocate the judgeship. On August 12, 2022, following a hearing and briefing by the parties, the trial court entered a judgment dismissing Hudson's action for all the reasons asserted by the defendants. Hudson timely appealed.
The defendants asserted that Hudson's action was due to be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., and because it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P. On appeal, no presumption of correctness is given to a dismissal. "'We review de novo whether the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction.'" Taylor v. Paradise Missionary Baptist Church, 242 So.3d 979, 986 (Ala. 2017) (quoting Solomon v. Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 953 So.2d 1211, 1218 (Ala. 2006)). "The appropriate standard of review under Rule 12(b)(6)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.,] is whether, when the allegations of the complaint are viewed most strongly in the pleader's favor, it appears that the pleader could prove any set of circumstances that would entitle her to relief." Nance v. Matthews, 622 So.2d 297, 299 (Ala. 1993). Furthermore, this Court reviews questions of law de novo. See Ex parte Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 209 So.3d 486, 489 (Ala. 2016).
A declaratory judgment, on the other hand, serves the broader function of enabling parties to obtain a judicial determination of their legal rights related to an actual controversy between them in advance of an invasion of such rights and whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. See, e.g., Harper v. Brown, Stagner, Richardson, Inc., 873 So.2d 220, 224 (Ala. 2003) ().
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