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Inc. v. City of Pelham

Supreme Court of Alabama

October 18, 2019

Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc.
v.
City of Pelham

          Appeal from Shelby Circuit Court (CV-18-900823)

          SELLERS, JUSTICE

         Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. ("Courtyard Manor"), [1] appeals from the Shelby Circuit Court's dismissal of its complaint filed against the City of Pelham ("the City"). We affirm.

         In August 2018, Courtyard Manor filed a complaint against the City after the City failed to conduct a hearing or otherwise to respond to Courtyard Manor's petition, filed with the City in September 2017, seeking to be deannexed from the City's municipal limits. Courtyard Manor averred in its complaint that the City had agreed to apply its deannexation criteria to the matter, that the City had a duty to set the matter for a hearing, and that the City had de facto denied the petition by failing to take any action on it.[2] Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court conduct a hearing on the petition and enter an order deannexing Courtyard Manor from the City. Alternatively, Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court order the Pelham City Council to hold a hearing on the petition and to report its decision to the circuit court.

         The City moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., [3] for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The City argued that, in deciding whether to deannex property, a municipal governing body acts in a legislative capacity, that a municipal governing body has discretion to determine if and when to deannex property, that the governing body's discretion in determining if and when to deannex property is not subject to interference by the courts, that the City's governing body has not determined that the corporate limits of the City should be reduced in the manner requested by Courtyard Manor, and that the City had no duty to hold a hearing on Courtyard Manor's petition. The circuit court granted the City's motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.

         I. Standard of Review

"On appeal, a dismissal is not entitled to a presumption of correctness. Jones v. Lee County Commission, 394 So.2d 928, 930 (Ala. 1981); Allen v. Johnny Baker Hauling, Inc., 545 So.2d 771, 772 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989). The appropriate standard of review under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, when the allegations of the complaint are viewed most strongly in the pleader's favor, it appears that the pleader could prove any set of circumstances that would entitle her to relief. Raley v. Citibanc of Alabama/Andalusia, 474 So.2d 640, 641 (Ala. 1985); Hill v. Falletta, 589 So.2d 746 (Ala. Civ. App. 1991). In making this determination, this Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but only whether she may possibly prevail. Fontenot v. Bramlett, 470 So.2d 669, 671 (Ala. 1985); Rice v. United Ins. Co. of America, 465 So.2d 1100, 1101 (Ala. 1984). We note that a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Garrett v. Hadden, 495 So.2d 616, 617 (Ala. 1986); Hill v. Kraft, Inc., 496 So.2d 768, 769 (Ala. 1986)."

Nance v. Matthews, 622 So.2d 297, 299 (Ala. 1993). This Court reviews de novo questions of law concerning statutory construction. Continental Nat'l Indem. Co. v. Fields, 926 So.2d 1033 (Ala. 2005).

         II. Analysis

         Section 11-42-200, Ala. Code 1975, a part of Alabama's statutory scheme for the reduction of municipal corporate limits or deannexation, provides:

"Whenever in the opinion of the council or governing body of any city or town the public health or public good requires that the corporate limits of such town or city be reduced and the boundaries thereof reestablished, said council shall pass a resolution defining the proposed corporate limits."

         The language of the statute contemplates that, when the governing body of a municipality determines that the public health or public good requires the reduction of corporate limits, the governing body will pass a resolution defining the proposed new limits. Nothing in the plain language of the statute contemplates the filing of a petition for deannexation or requires any action on the part of the governing body in the event such a petition is filed. Rather, the mere passage of a resolution defining the proposed new municipal limits satisfies the statutory mandate.

         This Court has never addressed the concept of court-ordered deannexation or whether or to what extent there can be judicial review of a governing body's de facto denial of a petition for deannexation by failing to take any action on the petition or to pass a resolution reducing the municipal limits. The Court has, however, considered the extent to which courts may review the decision of a municipality's governing body to deannex part of the municipality. See Evans v. Stone, 473 So.2d 495, 497 (Ala. 1985) ("We hold that when the governing body of a city or town resolves to reduce its corporate limits, it acts in its legislative capacity, just as it does when it determines to enlarge its corporate limits. See [City of Birmingham v.] Mead [Corp., 372 So.2d 825 (Ala. 1979)]. Consequently, when the reasonableness of the proposed reduction is fairly debatable, the courts will defer to the judgment of the governing body of the city or town and will interfere with its decision only to cure an abuse of discretion."). The Court also has considered the extent to which courts may review decisions by municipalities to annex territory. City of Birmingham v. Mead Corp., 372 So.2d 825, 829 (Ala. 1979) (indicating that governing bodies of municipalities have broad discretion in deciding whether to annex property). In the present case, Courtyard Manor fails to provide any argument concerning § 11-42-200, and, more specifically, it fails to acknowledge our courts' deference to a municipal governing body's legislative role and discretion in matters relating to annexation and deannexation. See Spradlin v. Birmingham Airport Auth., 613 So.2d 347 (Ala. 1993)(noting that it is neither this Court's duty nor its function to perform an appellant's legal research); see also Rule 28(a)(10), Ala. R. App. P.

         Rather than addressing § 11-42-200, Courtyard Manor argues that Article I, § 25, Ala. Const. 1901, establishes its right to petition the City for deannexation and to seek judicial review when the City fails to take any action on the petition. Section 25 provides: "[T]he citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for the common good, and to apply to those invested with the power of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance." (Emphasis added.) Courtyard Manor argues that § 25 requires "that the agencies of Government petitioned or remonstrated with by citizens owe those citizens the duty to listen and respond." Courtyard Manor, however, cites no legal authority supporting its contention that the City's failure to respond to Courtyard Manor's petition for deannexation implicates § 25. Spradlin, supra; Rule 28(a)(10), Ala. R. App. P. ...


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