Denied November 8, 2019.
from Madison Circuit Court (CV-18-69)
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.
E. Crump, Mobile, for amici curiae Alabama Appleseed Center
for Law & Justice, Alabama Arise, and National
Association of Consumer Advocates, in support of the
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.
Smith appeals from a judgment of the Madison Circuit Court
("the circuit court") affirming a judgment of the
Madison District Court ("the district court"),
which denied Smith's claim of exemption in connection
with a writ of garnishment.
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.
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.
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.