City of Birmingham v. AlexanderAnnotate this Case
The City of Birmingham appealed a Court of Civil Appeals affirmance of a summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Ernest Alexander in light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Ervin v. City of Birmingham." Upon execution of a search warrant of Alexander's home, federal drug enforcement agents and Birmingham police found marijuana, $38,675 in cash, cocaine, a firearm, and digital scales. In October 2009, a complaint for the civil forfeiture of the $38,675 was filed in the federal district court. Alexander failed to respond to the complaint or to take any action to reclaim the money. The federal court entered a default judgment of forfeiture as to the money on August 10, 2010. On March 16, 2011, Alexander filed a complaint in the Circuit Court seeking the return of the $38,675. He argued that the money had been seized but that no state forfeiture or condemnation proceeding had been filed as required by statute. The City filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment, arguing, in part, that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over this matter. Based on the intervening change of law set forth in "Ervin," the Court of Civil Appeals' decision in the previous Alexander case ("Alexander I") was "clearly erroneous." Therefore, the Court of Civil Appeals erred when it relied on the law-of-the-case doctrine and on its prior decision in determining that its decision in Alexander I was not subject to appellate review and that the City was not entitled to relief based upon the Supreme Court's decision in Ervin. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings.