L.C. and B.C.
Shelby County Department of Human Resources and Alabama Department of Human Resources
from Montgomery Circuit Court CV-17-901751
and B.C. appeal from a judgment entered by the Montgomery
Circuit Court affirming an administrative order of the
Alabama Department of Human Resources ("the Alabama
DHR") that upheld indicated findings of child abuse and
neglect made by the Shelby County Department of Human
Resources ("the Shelby County DHR") against L.C.
and B.C. We dismiss the appeal.
the father of two minor children, C.C. and J.C., born of his
marriage to V.R., which ended in divorce. L.C. is the current
wife of B.C. and the stepmother of C.C. and J.C. In 2015, the
Shelby County DHR received reports that L.C. and B.C. had
abused C.C. After an investigation, the Shelby County DHR
determined that the abuse was "indicated," meaning
that "credible evidence and professional judgment
substantiates that an alleged perpetrator is responsible for
child abuse or neglect." Ala. Code 1975, §
26-14-8(a)(1). B.C. and L.C. timely requested an
administrative hearing to contest the findings. See
Ala. Admin. Code (Dep't of Human Res.), r.
660-5-34-.08(1) (affording a person who has been indicated
for child abuse and neglect a right to a hearing to contest
administrative hearing took place on September 15, 2017,
before an administrative-law judge ("the ALJ"), in
a proceeding styled as "Before the State of Alabama
Department of Human Resource Shelby County." David W.
Smith, an assistant attorney general for the "Department
of Human Resources Montgomery Regional Legal Office,"
acted as the attorney for the Shelby County DHR in those
proceedings. On October 9, 2017, the ALJ issued an
administrative order upholding the indicated findings.
November 8, 2017, B.C. and L.C. electronically filed a notice
of appeal that was styled "Before the State of Alabama
Department of Human Resource Shelby County" and in which
they certified that they had served a copy of the document on
Smith "by electronic filing" on that same date.
Also, on that same date, L.C. and B.C. filed electronically
in the Montgomery Circuit Court a "Petition for Trial De
Novo or, in the alternative, Petition for Judicial Review
Pursuant to Section 41-22-20 and Petition for Writ of
Certiorari," naming the Alabama DHR as the respondent.
B.C. and L.C. amended their petition to add the Shelby County
DHR as a respondent. The petition and amended petition
requested service by sheriff on
"David W. Smith, Assistant Attorney General Department
of Human Resources 3030 Mobile Highway Montgomery, Alabama
"Shelby County Department of Human Resources 987 Highway
Columbiana, Alabama 35051."
record indicates that the Shelby County DHR was served on
November 20, 2017, but that Smith was never served.
December 22, 2017, Elizabeth Hendrix, who identified herself
as "Assistant Attorney General State of Alabama
Department of Human Resources," filed a notice of
appearance as counsel for the Shelby County DHR. No attorney
ever appeared specifically for the Alabama DHR. On October
30, 2018, a final judgment was entered by the circuit court,
affirming the ALJ's October 9, 2017, decision. The
circuit court denied a postjudgment motion filed by B.C. and
L.C. on January 28, 2019. B.C. and L.C. filed a notice of
appeal on March 4, 2019, naming the Shelby County DHR and the
Alabama DHR as appellees.
41-22-20(a), Ala. Code 1975, a portion of the Alabama
Administrative Procedure Act ("the AAPA"), §
41-22-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, provides that a party who
has been aggrieved by the final decision of an administrative
agency may, upon exhausting all administrative remedies,
obtain judicial review of that decision. The statutory right
to judicial review through the AAPA forecloses review of a
final decision issued by an administrative agency by any
other means, including by common-law writ of certiorari.
See Exparte Worley, 46 So.3d 916, 921-22
(Ala. 2009). The AAPA further defines the process by which a
party may properly invoke the ...