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Reese v. Bolling

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 10, 2019

Lorenzo Reese
v.
Leon Bolling, Angela Miree, and Antoinette Johnson

          Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-18-303)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Lorenzo Reese appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") dismissing a complaint filed by Reese against Leon Bolling, Angela Miree, and Antoinette Johnson.[1] We reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Procedural History

         On June 5, 2018, Reese filed a complaint in the trial court, asserting, among other things, that he is a prisoner in the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC") and is housed at the William E. Donaldson Mental Institution ("the institution"); that he has been diagnosed by one of the DOC's health-care providers with diabetes; that one of DOC's health-care providers had issued medical orders requiring Bolling, a warden III supervisor at the institution, and Miree, a warden II supervisor at the institution, to allow Reese to receive insulin injections before institutional special-diet meals and requiring Johnson, the chief steward and supervisor of the kitchen at the institution, to serve Reese institutional special-diet meals; and that Bolling, Miree, and Johnson had failed to comply with those medical orders. Reese also asserted in his complaint that he had filed a request with Bolling, Miree, and Johnson that he be provided a religious diet based on his faith and that his request had been denied. Reese argued in his complaint that his rights, pursuant to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to receive adequate medical treatment and medical management of his diabetes require Bolling, Miree, and Johnson to comply with the medical orders allowing for his insulin shots to be administered before his meals and to provide him with institutional special-diet meals, and, he asserted, Bolling, Miree, and Johnson had failed to comply with those orders. Reese also asserted that he has a right, pursuant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to be served a diet compliant with the tenets of his faith and that he had been denied that right by Bolling, Miree, and Johnson.

         In his prayer for relief, Reese requested compensation in the amount of $1, 000, 000; punitive damages in the amount of $1, 000, 000; a judgment declaring and affirming that Reese's rights under the Eighth Amendment to adequate medical treatment and management mandate that the medical orders issued by the DOC's health-care providers be carried out; a judgment declaring and affirming that the failure of Bolling, Miree, and Johnson to comply with the medical orders is a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights; a judgment declaring and affirming Reese's right under the First Amendment to freely exercise his religion with regard to his diet; a judgment declaring and affirming that the failure of Bolling, Miree, and Johnson to allow him to eat a diet conforming to his religious practices is a violation of the First Amendment; an injunction enjoining Bolling, Miree, and Johnson from failing to comply with the medical orders; and an injunction enjoining Bolling, Miree, and Johnson from denying Reese his right to eat a diet conforming to his religious practices.

         On August 27, 2018, Reese filed a motion to amend his complaint, seeking to add a count asserting that he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by Johnson, who, Reese argued, served contaminated meals in the institution, as well as a count asserting that additional defendants had denied him adequate medical treatment.[2] On September 11, 2018, the trial court entered an order setting the case for a hearing on October 9, 2018. On October 4, 2018, Bolling, Miree, and Johnson filed a Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion to dismiss based on, among other things, immunity, lack of support for certain of Reese's claims, and mootness. They attached to their motion exhibits in support of their assertions, including records from the DOC regarding Reese's diet, Johnson's affidavit, and a "steward production worksheet." On October 15, 2018, the trial court entered an order indicating, among other things, that the matter had come before the court for a hearing on October 9, 2018, and that it had "carefully reviewed all pleadings and evidentiary materials" and dismissing Reese's claims against Bolling, Miree, and Johnson in their entirety, with prejudice.

         Reese filed a motion seeking an extension of time to file an opposition to the motion to dismiss on October 18, 2018, in which he asserted, among other things, that he had not received a copy of the motion to dismiss until October 12, 2018. On November 13, 2018, Reese filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the trial court's judgment, asserting, among other things, that the trial court had erred in dismissing the action because he had been denied the opportunity to respond to the motion to dismiss. The trial court entered an order denying Reese's postjudgment motion on November 14, 2018. Reese filed his notice of appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals transferred the appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, which, in turn, transferred the appeal to this court, pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code 1975.

         Standard of Review

         In their brief on appeal, Bolling, Miree, and Johnson cite the standard of review applicable to a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P. Conversely, Reese argues on appeal that this court must review the trial court's judgment as though the motion to dismiss filed by Bolling, Miree, and Johnson had been converted into a motion for a summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 12(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., and that the standard of review applicable to a summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56, Ala. R. Civ. P., should be used in the present appeal. "In order to determine the appropriate standard of review, we must first determine whether the motion[] to dismiss [was] converted to [a] motion[] for a summary judgment." Ex parte Price, 244 So.3d 949, 954 (Ala. 2017).

         Analysis

         Reese argues on appeal that the trial court erred in granting the motion to dismiss without giving him notice that the motion had been converted into a motion for a summary judgment and allowing him an opportunity to defend against the motion before entering a summary judgment in favor of Bolling, Miree, and Johnson. Bolling, Miree, and Johnson respond in their brief to this court that the trial court's judgment was entered pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), rather than Rule 56. In support of their arguments that the trial court's judgment is due to be affirmed, however, they refer in their brief to exhibits that were attached to their motion to dismiss. They argue that "[t]here is nothing in the clerk's record to support" Reese's claim that their motion to dismiss was converted into a motion for a summary judgment. We disagree.

         In its October 15, 2018, judgment, the trial court indicated that it had considered "all pleadings and evidentiary materials," along with arguments of counsel. Rule 12(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., provides, in pertinent part:

"If, on a motion asserting the defense numbered (6) to dismiss for failure of the pleading to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56, [Ala. R. Civ. P., ] and all parties shall be given ...

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