Norris v. Fayette County CommissionAnnotate this Case
Hubert Norris appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Fayette County Commission and the dismissal of his petition for a writ of mandamus. Norris held the office of Sheriff of Fayette County for consecutive four-year terms beginning June 1974 until his resignation in May 1989. As sheriff, Norris participated in the county's supernumerary sheriffs' benefit program. During his fourth term in office, Norris resigned pursuant to a plea agreement in federal court. As part of the agreement, Norris pleaded guilty to multiple federal felonies, including racketeering, bribery, and tax evasion. Norris was convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison. Norris later received a full pardon from the Alabama State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which restored all of his civil and political rights that had been forfeited by virtue of his conviction. Several years later, the then-Governor appointed Norris as supernumerary sheriff of Fayette County. The Commission petitioned to have Norris excluded from office. The Fayette Circuit Court issued the writ, and Norris appealed. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that Norris was precluded from serving as supernumerary sheriff after having received a pardon. Norris ran for and was reelected as Sheriff of Fayette County several years later. Norris served as sheriff, and he contributed to the supernumerary sheriffs' benefit program for each of those years. The State of Alabama again petitioned for a writ of quo warranto, alleging that Norris had unlawfully held his office, but this time the circuit court ruled in favor of Norris. Norris ended up serving out his term as sheriff. But toward the end of that term, the Commission sought a legal opinion from the attorney general regarding the county's obligation to pay Norris any supernumerary sheriff's benefits. Norris filed with then Governor Bob Riley a written declaration seeking to become a supernumerary sheriff for Fayette County at the end of his term as sheriff; Norris stated in that declaration that he met all the requirements to be appointed as a supernumerary sheriff. Governor Riley commissioned Norris as supernumerary sheriff of Fayette County. The Commission sought another legal opinion from the attorney general regarding whether Norris's appointment by Governor Riley affected the status of Norris with regard to his supernumerary benefits. The attorney general advised the Commission that, because Governor Riley had already appointed Norris as supernumerary sheriff, the question was moot. Months later Governor Riley's chief legal advisor purported to rescind Norris's appointment after learning of his felony conviction. Norris responded by filing a petition for a writ of mandamus compelling payment of past and future supernumerary sheriff's benefits. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the Commission, concluding as a matter of law that Norris had not served as sheriff for the requisite number of years as required by law, and that Governor Riley's appointment of Norris as supernumerary sheriff was void ab initio; the trial court therefore dismissed Norris's petition for a writ of mandamus. Because the trial court correctly held that, as a matter of law, Norris did not meet the statutory requirements to be appointed a supernumerary sheriff, Norris was not entitled to the mandamus relief he requested. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in entering a summary judgment in favor of the Commission and in dismissing Norris's petition for a writ of mandamus.