Randolph County v. Thompson

Decision Date09 January 1987
PartiesRANDOLPH COUNTY v. Charlie Will THOMPSON. RANDOLPH COUNTY v. Charlie Will THOMPSON. 85-655, 85-1124.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

John A. Tinney, Roanoke, for appellant.

Tom Radney of Radney & Morris, Alexander City, for appellee.

BEATTY, Justice.

Appellant, Randolph County ("the County"), appeals from two orders entered by the Randolph Circuit Court against it in two different actions now consolidated for appeal. The first order denied its motion to intervene in an action, and the second order granted summary judgment against it in a declaratory judgment action.

On September 13, 1979, Charlie Will Thompson, Sheriff of Randolph County, filed with Governor Fob James a written declaration of election to become a supernumerary sheriff pursuant to the provisions of Code of 1975, § 36-22-60. Prior to Thompson's filing of this declaration, criminal proceedings had been instituted against him in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. He had been charged with violating various provisions of the federal election laws in that he had knowingly and willfully paid or offered to pay voters to vote in an election. Thompson was found guilty and sentenced to serve a three-year term in the federal penitentiary; however, he served only three months in prison. The balance of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation. Thompson was also fined $1,000. This conviction was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. At some point subsequent to his conviction, Thompson's request for appointment as a supernumerary sheriff was denied.

After this denial, Thompson brought a declaratory judgment action against Governor James in the Montgomery Circuit Court seeking an order that he was entitled to an appointment as a supernumerary sheriff. The Montgomery Circuit Court granted the requested judgment. Governor James appealed to this Court.

On January 23, 1981, this Court reversed the judgment of the Montgomery Circuit Court and held that Thompson, "upon his conviction of the infamous crime of voting fraud, became ineligible and disqualified from holding the office of supernumerary sheriff." James v. Thompson, 392 So.2d 1178, 1180 (Ala.1981). Subsequently, Thompson asked for a return of the funds he had paid into the supernumerary sheriff's fund in Randolph County. These were returned.

On July 1, 1981, Thompson received a pardon from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. 1 Again, he applied to the governor for a supernumerary sheriff's appointment. Governor George Wallace denied his request on April 10, 1985.

On April 23, 1985, Thompson filed an action in Randolph Circuit Court against Governor Wallace (Thompson v. Wallace ) seeking a judgment declaring that, because of the pardon, he was now entitled to supernumerary status. The trial court granted judgment in his favor on November 26, 1985.

On November 27, 1985, Governor Wallace, through a representative in the attorney general's office, filed both a notice of appeal and a motion to stay the trial court's judgment. Shortly thereafter, however, a conflict of interest developed between the governor and the attorney general's office. As a result of this conflict, on December 12, 1985, the attorney general's office moved to withdraw as the governor's counsel. This Court granted that motion on December 31, 1985. On that same day, on motion from the governor's new counsel, the appeal in Thompson v. Wallace was dismissed.

Sometime thereafter, in compliance with the trial court's judgment, Governor Wallace appointed Thompson to a position as a supernumerary sheriff of Randolph County. On January 21, 1986, the County was notified of this appointment by a letter addressed to the probate judge's office. On that same day, Thompson tendered an amount to the county that was equal to the amount he had earlier withdrawn from the county's supernumerary sheriff's fund. This amount was not accepted by the probate judge. Instead, it is being held in escrow pending a resolution of this appeal.

On January 28, 1986, the County filed the following in the Randolph Circuit Court:

(1) A motion to intervene in the action that had originally been filed by Thompson on April 23, 1985 (Thompson v. Wallace ). The County asserted that, because a supernumerary sheriff's salary is paid from county funds, it was entitled to intervene as of right pursuant to Rule 24(a), A.R.Civ.P.

(2) An answer to Thompson's original complaint in Thompson v. Wallace.

(3) A motion for relief from the judgment of the trial court that had been entered on November 26, 1985, in Thompson v. Wallace.

On February 26, 1986, the trial court denied the County's motion to intervene, and, thereby, also denied all other relief requested by the County. On March 4, 1986, the County filed a notice of appeal from the trial court's denial of its motion to intervene. That is one of the appeals now before this Court (Case No. 85-655).

On March 7, 1986, while the appeal from the denial of the County's motion to intervene in Thompson v. Wallace was still pending, the County filed an action in Randolph Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment as to whether the County had to pay Thompson's salary as a supernumerary sheriff. Within days of the filing of this complaint, Thompson filed a petition for writ of mandamus which requested the trial court to order the County to start paying him as a supernumerary sheriff. Thompson also petitioned for damages from the County's probate judge and all but one of the county commissioners. The damages portion of Thompson's petition was later severed. In turn, each party moved to dismiss the other's complaint or petition.

At hearing, Thompson's motion to dismiss was treated as a motion for summary judgment. The trial court awarded Thompson summary judgment on the County's declaratory judgment claim. Thompson's petition for writ of mandamus was dismissed. On May 28, 1986, the County appealed from that order granting summary judgment. That is the second of the appeals now before this Court (Case No. 85-1124).

On July 7, 1986, Thompson moved to have the appeals in these two cases consolidated. This motion was granted. Thompson has also moved to dismiss these appeals. We consider first the summary judgment granted to Thompson in the County's declaratory judgment action.

In this action, the County makes a number of arguments. Among these are: (1) that the pardon granted to Thompson by the parole board is void on its face and of no effect; (2) that the trial court's decision in Thompson v. Wallace should have been barred by the doctrine of res judicata because of this Court's decision in James v. Thompson, 392 So.2d 1178 (Ala.1981); (3) that Thompson did not qualify for supernumerary sheriff status because he had earlier withdrawn his funds from the supernumerary sheriff's fund of the County, and (4) that the pardon does not, even if it is valid, entitle Thompson to supernumerary status. It is clear to us that, in making these arguments, the County is attempting to collaterally attack that judgment issued by the trial court in Thompson v. Wallace--that same judgment which the County is trying to attack directly through intervention in Thompson v. Wallace.

As explained in Williams v. First National Bank of Mobile, 384 So.2d 89, 93 (Ala.1980):

"[A] direct attack upon a judgment is an attempt to amend, correct, reform, vacate, or enjoin the execution of that judgment in a proceeding instituted for that purpose, and ... a collateral attack is an attempt to avoid the binding force of a judgment in a proceeding not instituted in an attempt to amend, correct, reform, vacate or enjoin its execution."

See also Williams v. Overcast, 229 Ala. 119, 155 So. 543 (1934). This distinction between a direct and a collateral attack cannot be overemphasized.

A judgment which is regular on its face and indicates subject matter and personal jurisdiction is conclusive on collateral attack. Otto v. Guthrie, 475 So.2d 856 (Ala.1985); Nigg v. Smith, 415 So.2d 1082 (Ala.1982); Williams v. First National Bank of Mobile, supra.

The general rule regarding the collateral attack of a judgment by a person who was not a party to the prior proceeding is adequately stated in 49 C.J.S. Judgments § 414 (1947):

"A stranger to the record, who was not a party to the action in which the judgment was rendered or in privity with a party is not prohibited from impeaching the validity of the judgment in a collateral proceeding; but in order to do so he must show that he has rights, claims or interests which would be prejudiced or injuriously affected by the enforcement of the judgment, and which accrued prior to its rendition, unless the judgment is absolutely void. Thus situated he may attack the judgment on the ground of want of jurisdiction, or for fraud or collusion; but he cannot object to it because of mere errors or irregularities or for any matters which might have been set up in defense to the original action."

In its declaratory judgment action, the County does not argue any want of jurisdiction, fraud, or collusion. Further, the judgment appears regular "on its face." As such, we must hold that this collateral attack on that judgment must fail. As a result, even though the trial court did not grant summary judgment on the basis of the collateral nature of the County's action, the decision of the trial court is affirmed. See Boyd v. Brabham, 414 So.2d 931 (Ala.1982); Staub v. Alabama Power Co., 350 So.2d 386 (Ala.1977).

We now turn our attention to the County's motion to intervene in Thompson v. Wallace.

At the hearing before the trial court, the County argued that it had a right to intervene in Thompson v. Wallace, pursuant to Rule 24(a), A.R.Civ.P. The trial court held that the County could not intervene because, although the County "is an interested party, [it] is not a necessary party" to the action. The trial court's...

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  • Magee v. Boyd
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • March 2, 2015
    ...intervention as untimely, even though they might deny the request if the intervention were merely permissive."'"Randolph County v. Thompson, 502 So. 2d 357, 364 (Ala. 1987). In other words, trial courts have broader discretion in denying a motion for permissive intervention as untimely unde......
  • Magee v. Boyd, 1130987, 1131020, 1131021.
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    ...intervention as untimely, even though they might deny the request if the intervention were merely permissive.” ’“Randolph County v. Thompson, 502 So.2d 357, 364 (Ala.1987). In other words, trial courts have broader discretion in denying a motion for permissive intervention as untimely under......
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