Ex parte Gary Branch. PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS: CIVIL (In re: Doby Vines and Joey Vines v. R. Alan Benefield, in his individual and official capacity; Gary Branch, in his individual and official capacity; and Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission)
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SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA
SPECIAL TERM, 2007
Ex parte Gary Branch
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
(In re: Doby Vines and Joey Vines
R. Alan Benefield, in his individual and official capacity;
Gary Branch, in his individual and official capacity; and
Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission)
(Montgomery Circuit Court, CV-05-23)
Montgomery Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in his
favor or to dismiss, with prejudice, all claims against him.
This Court ordered answer and briefs. The respondents have not
filed an answer.
Facts and Procedural Posture
This case arises out of the termination of the part-time
employment of Doby Vines and Joey Vines, who are brothers, by
the Southwest Alabama Police Academy("SWAPA"). Under a "jointuse agreement" dated February 9, 1999, Faulkner State allowed
SWAPA to operate on its property, provided classroom space and
facilities-related services, and provided payroll services to
On January 14, 2003, Chief R. Alan Benefield, executive
secretary of the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training
Commission, composed a memorandum to Branch requesting the
memorandum stated that the Alabama Peace Officers Standards
and Training Commission had directed that the Vineses' parttime employment be terminated immediately, necessitating the
removal of their names from the payroll list. Pursuant to the
instructions in the memorandum, Branch took the necessary
action to have the Vineses' names removed from the payroll
In January 2005, the Vineses sued, seeking reinstatement
to their part-time positions; they included Branch, in both
his official and individual capacities, as a defendant.
claimed that he and Chief Benefield, who
had requested the
removal of their names from SWAPA's payroll, had "contrived,
combined, federated, and conspired among themselves to deny
[the Vineses] their employment, wages, and benefits." They
also sought to enjoin Branch from "failing to restore wages
and benefits and other such relief as deemed appropriate by
the [trial] Court."
provided payroll services to SWAPA, was terminated effective
October 31, 2003, over one year before the Vineses filed their
Therefore, whether Branch or Faulkner State had ever
possessed any power to influence SWAPA's employment decisions,
which Branch insists they did not, neither Branch nor Faulkner
State could in any way impact SWAPA's payroll at the time the
Vineses' complaint was filed.
Although Branch filed a "motion for a summary judgment"
in both his individual and official capacities, he was seeking
a judgment in his favor or, in the alternative, a dismissal of
all the claims against him. He argued in his motion, among
other grounds, that he was entitled to State immunity under §
14, Ala. Const. 1901, and that the relief sought was not
available because Branch had no authority to reinstate the
Vineses or to award them back-pay benefits. In his memorandum
brief in support of his motion, Branch again advanced the
alternative arguments that the claims against him are barred
by State immunity and that the plaintiffs had failed to state
a claim on which relief could be granted, i.e., that the
claims should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R.
motion. The order denying his motion reads as follows:
"Ordered, adjudged and decreed said Motions are
denied based upon the Rule 53(d) Alabama Rules of
Appellate Procedure requiring no precedent to be
given to the 'no opinion' affirmance in the related
case of Davis, et al. v. Peace Officers Standards
and Training Commission, CV-2003-0226, Baldwin
Branch notes that although in denying his motion the
trial court addressed the prohibition in Rule 53(d), Ala. R.
Civ. P., on using no-opinion affirmances as precedent, it
failed to address the State immunity claim or the ground that
the complaint stated no claim against Branch upon which relief
could be granted.
The denial of a motion for a summary judgment or of a
motion to dismiss grounded on immunity is reviewable by a
petition for a writ of mandamus. Ex parte Rizk, 791 So. 2d
911, 912 (Ala. 2000).
Ex parte Haralson, 853 So. 2d 928, 931
n. 2 (Ala. 2003)("The denial of a motion to dismiss or a
motion for a summary judgment generally is not reviewable by
a petition for writ of mandamus, subject to certain narrow
exceptions, such as the issue of immunity. Ex parte Liberty
Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 825 So. 2d 758, 761-62 (Ala. 2002).").
This Court has stated:
On November 18, 2005, the Court of Civil Appeals issued
a no-opinion affirmance in Davis v. Alabama Peace Officers
Standards and Training Commission (No. 2040840, Nov. 18, 2005)
___ So. 2d _____ (Ala. Civ. App. 2005)(table).
"A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy
available only when there is: '(1) a clear legal
right to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty
upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a
refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate
remedy; and (4) the properly invoked jurisdiction of
the court.' Ex parte BOC Group, Inc., 823 So. 2d
1270, 1272 (Ala. 2001)."
Ex parte Nall, 879 So. 2d 541, 543 (Ala. 2003). Branch's
motion was grounded on a claim of immunity; therefore, the
denial of the motion is reviewable by this Court.
In their complaint against Benefield, Branch, and SWAPA,
the Vineses demanded relief in the form of compensatory and
punitive damages from Benefield and "[a]n injunction enjoining
the defendants from failing to restore the employment, wages,
individual over the age of nineteen and a resident of Baldwin
County, Alabama. Injunctive relief solely is sought as to
The Vineses seek "an injunction enjoining [Branch] from
plaintiffs." Branch denies that he had any authority over the
decisions the Vineses complain of, and because the joint-use
agreement under which Faulkner State provided services to
SWAPA was terminated long before the filing of the Vineses'
action, Branch was without power to afford the remedy they
"It is well settled that the judiciary of
Alabama is not empowered '"to decide moot questions,
abstract propositions, or to give advisory opinions,
however convenient it might be to have these
questions decided for the government of future
cases."' Stamps v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ.,
642 So. 2d 941, 944 (Ala. 1994) (quoting Town of
Warrior v. Blaylock, 275 Ala. 113, 114, 152 So. 2d
661, 662 (1963)) (emphasis omitted).'"[I]f a case
has become moot, or [if a] judgment would not
accomplish an end recognized as sufficient in law,
there is no necessity for the judgment, the court
will decline to consider the merits, and [the court]
will dismiss the case."' Hornsby v. Sessions, 703
So. 2d 932, 938 (Ala. 1997) (quoting Chisolm v.
Crook, 130 So. 2d 191, 193 (1961))."
Ex parte Connors, 855 So. 2d 486, 488 (Ala. 2003).
Because the sole relief the Vineses sought from Branch
was an "injunction enjoining [Branch] from failing to restore
the employment, wages, and benefits to plaintiffs," a power
Branch no longer had when the complaint was filed, if he ever
had it, that part of the complaint was moot insofar as it
concerned Branch. Because the claims against Branch were moot,
the Vineses failed to state a claim for which relief could be
granted, and the claims against him were due to be dismissed.
Because the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief
Branch was entitled to State immunity.
When Branch filed his motion seeking, in the alternative,
a summary judgment or a dismissal of the claims against him,
he met his burden of demonstrating that the Vineses sought
remedies from him that he was unable to provide. The Vineses'
response to Branch's motion added nothing to refute Branch's
prima facie showing.
The remedies demanded of Branch were not within his power
to provide at the time this action was commenced; thus, the
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
capacity, and, as an individual, he had no authority to award
the relief demanded in the complaint. Accordingly, we conclude
that Branch had a clear legal right to a dismissal, that the
trial court refused to perform its imperative duty to grant
his motion, and that Branch had no other adequate remedy than
filing this petition for the writ of mandamus. We therefore
directing the trial court to enter an order dismissing,
prejudice, all claims against Branch.
PETITION GRANTED; WRIT ISSUED.
Cobb, C.J., and See, Lyons, Woodall, Stuart, Smith, and
Bolin, JJ., concur.