Smith v. Renter's Realty, 2180304

CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation296 So.3d 844
Docket Number2180304
Decision Date12 July 2019

296 So.3d 844

Ieisha SMITH


Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.

July 12, 2019
Opinion Issued on Return to Remand October 4, 2019
Rehearing Denied November 8, 2019

Farahbin Majid and Pamela Jackson of Legal Services Alabama, Inc., Huntsville; and Sara Zampierin of Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, for appellant.

Michael O. Godwin of Edmondson Godwin Attorneys at Law, Montgomery, for appellee.

Judson E. Crump, Mobile, for amici curiae Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, Alabama Arise, and National Association of Consumer Advocates, in support of the appellant.

Thomas A. Woodall, Greggory M. Deitsch, Barry A. Ragsdale, and Christian C. Feldman of Sirote & Permutt, P.C., Birmingham, for amicus curiae Alabama Apartment Association, Inc., in support of the appellee.


Ieisha Smith appeals from a judgment of the Madison Circuit Court ("the circuit court") affirming a judgment of the Madison District Court ("the district court"),

296 So.3d 846

which denied Smith's claim of exemption in connection with a writ of garnishment.

In the district court, Renter's Realty ("Renter's") had prevailed against Smith in its unlawful-detainer action against her. The district court initially entered an order of possession in favor of Renter's. On December 22, 2016, it entered a judgment ordering Smith to pay damages and costs in the amount of $5,145. Smith did not appeal from the December 22, 2016, judgment. There is no record that Smith paid the judgment or attempted to arrange a payment schedule with Renter's. Thus, on May 17, 2017, Renter's filed a process of garnishment in the district court. A writ of garnishment was issued on May 18, 2017, to Smith's employer. On June 12, 2017, Smith filed in the district court a motion to stay the garnishment, a verified declaration, and a claim of exemption. In her claim of exemption, Smith asserted that her biweekly wages were approximately $900 or less and that she used all of her income to pay current expenses for her family and herself. She said that she did not accumulate wages from paycheck to paycheck. Citing Art. 10, § 204, of the Alabama Constitution of 1901 ("§ 204"), Smith claimed that her wages were exempt from garnishment.

The district court granted the stay in an order entered on June 13, 2017. On June 15, 2017, Renter's filed an objection to the claim of exemption, arguing, among other things, that Smith was barred from claiming wages as personal property subject to exemption by the application of § 6-10-6.1, Ala. Code 1975. Approximately one year later, on June 27, 2018, after a number of hearings, the district court entered a judgment denying the claim of exemption and reinstating the writ of garnishment. On July 2, 2018, Smith appealed to the circuit court from the district court's judgment and included the record created in the district court. The record indicates that on July 17, 2018, Smith filed a "response" to Renter's challenge to her claim of exemption. In her response, Smith argued that her wages could be claimed as a personal exemption under § 204 and Alabama caselaw dating to 1884.

Smith and Renter's filed trial briefs in the circuit court regarding the constitutionality of § 6-10-6.1, Ala. Code 1975. That statute provides:

"(a) Wages, salaries, or other compensation of a resident are not personal property for the purposes of exemption from garnishment, levy, sale under execution, or other process for the collection of debt.

"(b) It is the intent of this section to exclude from the meaning of personal property the wages, salaries, or other compensation of a resident for the purposes of the personal property exemption under Section 6-10-6[, Ala. Code 1975,] and Section 204 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901."

On August 10, 2018, the circuit court held a hearing on Smith's claim of exemption and Renter's contest of the claim. On August 13, 2018, the circuit court entered a judgment stating that the attorneys for the parties had appeared before it on August 10, 2018, and had "consented to the Court rendering a decision on claim of exemption without further hearing." The circuit court then denied Smith's claim of exemption, citing § 6-10-6.1 and noting that that statute had become law on June 11, 2015, before the writ of garnishment had been issued.

Smith filed a timely motion to alter, amend, or vacate the circuit court's judgment. The circuit court scheduled a hearing on the motion; however, it appears that the motion was denied by operation of law before the hearing was held. Smith then filed a timely appeal to this court.

296 So.3d 847

On appeal, the only issues Smith raises concern the constitutionality of § 6-10-6.1. Alabama law requires that, in any proceeding in which a "statute, ordinance, or franchise is alleged to be unconstitutional, the Attorney General of the state shall ... be served with a copy of the proceeding and be entitled to be heard." § 6-6-227, Ala. Code 1975 (emphasis added).

" ‘[S]ervice on the Attorney General, pursuant to § 6-6-227, is mandatory and jurisdictional.’ Barger v. Barger, 410 So. 2d 17, 19 (Ala. 1982). Although § 6-6-227 is found within the Declaratory Judgment Act, when the constitutionality of a statute is challenged, service on the attorney general is required regardless of whether the action was in the nature of a declaratory judgment action. Wallace v. State, 507 So. 2d 466 (Ala. 1987)."

Tucker v. Personnel Bd. of Dothan, 644 So. 2d 8, 9 (Ala. Civ. App. 1994). Therefore, before we can consider the merits of the appeal, this court must determine whether the requirements of § 6-6-227 were met.

In Ex parte Jefferson County, 767 So. 2d 343 (Ala. 2000), our supreme court discussed the purpose of § 6-6-227 and what constitutes providing the attorney general with a sufficient opportunity to be heard, stating:

" Section 6–6–227 provides that when the constitutionality of a state statute is challenged the attorney general must be served with a copy of the complaint, in order to allow him to represent the interests of the people of the State of Alabama. See Board of Trustees of Employees' Retirement System of the City of Montgomery v. Talley, 291 Ala. 307, 280 So. 2d 553 (1973). In interpreting § 6–6–227, this Court has consistently held that the failure to serve the attorney general will deny the trial court jurisdiction to resolve any claim based on the constitutional challenge. See Bratton v. City of Florence, 688 So. 2d 233, 234 (Ala. 1996). Any ruling that a trial court makes

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5 cases
  • R.E.H. v. Y.S.-T., 2190344
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • November 20, 2020
    ...was not provided an opportunity to defend the facial validity of § 15-20A-11(d) in the juvenile court. See Smith v. Renter's Realty, 296 So. 3d 844, 849 (Ala. Civ. App. 2019) (quoting Ex parte Northport Health Serv., Inc., 682 So. 2d 52, 55 (Ala. 1996), quoting in turn Ex parte St. Vincent'......
  • Renter's Realty v. Smith, 2181042
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • January 10, 2020
    ...court that has arisen from the writ of garnishment issued in this action. The record from the previous appeal, Smith v. Renter's Realty, 296 So.3d 844 (Ala. Civ. App. 2019) (" Smith I"), which the parties have asked to be incorporated as the record in the current appeal, indicates the follo......
  • R.E.H. v. C.T., 2190344
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • November 20, 2020
    ...was not provided an opportunity to defend the facial validity of § 15-20A-11(d) in the juvenile court. See Smith v. Renter's Realty, 296 So. 3d 844, 849 (Ala. Civ. App. 2019) (quoting Ex parte Northport Health Serv., Inc., 682 So. 2d 52, 55 (Ala. 1996), quoting in turn Ex parte St. Vincent'......
  • Devine v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon Corp., 1171002
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 22, 2019
    ...See Crews v. National Boat Owners Ass'n Marine Ins. Agency, Inc., 46 So. 3d 933, 942 (Ala. 2010) (" ‘When an appellant fails to argue an 296 So.3d 844 issue in its [initial] brief, that issue is waived.’ " (quoting Boshell v. Keith, 418 So. 2d 89, 92 (Ala. 1982) )). When the issue that is w......
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