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Smith v. Renter's Realty

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

July 12, 2019

Ieisha SMITH
v.
RENTER' S REALTY

         Rehearing Denied November 8, 2019.

         Appeal from Madison Circuit Court (CV-18-69)

Page 845

          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.

         PER CURIAM.

         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"),

Page 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. ...


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