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Supreme Court of Alabama

October 26, 2018

Ex parte Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission
v.
Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission In re: Bryan Mark Grimmett

          Montgomery Circuit Court, CV-18-900617

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          SELLERS, JUSTICE.

         The Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission ("the Commission") petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court to enter an order dismissing, on the ground of sovereign immunity under Art. I, § 14, Ala. Const. 1901, the complaint filed against it by Bryan Mark Grimmett. Because the Commission has demonstrated a clear legal right to this relief, we grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts

         The underlying facts of this case are recited fully in Ex parte Alabama Peace Officers' Standards & Training Commission, 238 So.3d 48 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). That opinion concludes:

"[W]e affirm the judgment insofar as it reversed the Commission's order revoking Grimmett's law-enforcement certification. We reverse the judgment insofar as it ordered that Grimmett's law-enforcement certification be fully reinstated. We remand the cause to the trial court to enter an order requiring the Commission to withdraw its revocation of Grimmett's law-enforcement certification and for other proceedings consistent with this opinion."

         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 law-enforcement certification. On remand, the trial court entered an order stating, among other things, that "[a]ny recertification or provisional employment as a law enforcement officer shall be subject to applicable law, rules, and requirements of the Commission in effect at the time of any application for recertification by Mr. Grimmett."

         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 is undisputed that Grimmett has been not employed as a law-enforcement officer since 2000.

         On April 3, 2018, Grimmett filed a complaint in the Montgomery 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. Grimmett sought, among other things, a judgment requiring the Commission to

"obey the Court of Civil Appeals['] ruling; [to] allow Grimmett to attend the 80-hour refresher course; [to] enjoin [the Commission] from applying [its new rule]; to pay all costs and attorney's fees; and to grant such other relief as allowed by law."

         On May 4, 2018, 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 under § 14. Grimmett thereafter filed an amended complaint in which he purported to add as a defendant R. Alan Benefield, in his official capacity as executive secretary of the Commission. On June 13, 2018, the circuit court entered an order denying the Commission's motion to dismiss. This petition followed.

         Standard of Review

         A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy available only when the petitioner can demonstrate: "'(1) a clear legal right to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) the properly invoked jurisdiction of the court.'" Ex parte Nall, 879 So.2d 541, 543 (Ala. 2003)(quoting Ex parte BOC Grp., Inc., 823 So.2d 1270, 1272 (Ala. 2001)). It is well established that "a court's failure to dismiss a case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity may properly be addressed by a petition for the writ of mandamus." Ex parte Alabama Dep't of Mental Health & Mental Retardation, 837 ...


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