Ex parte The Retirement Systems of Alabama et al.Annotate this Case
The Retirement Systems of Alabama ("RSA"), the Teachers' Retirement System of Alabama ("TRS"), the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan ("PEEHIP"), the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Fund ("PEEHIF"), the Board of Control of TRS ("the TRS Board"), the Board of Control of PEEHIP ("the PEEHIP Board"), David Bronner, as chief executive officer of RSA and as secretary-treasurer of TRS and PEEHIP, and various members of the TRS Board and of the PEEHIP Board in their official capacities ("the PEEHIP defendants") sought mandamus review of the Circuit Court's denial of their motion to dismiss the claims filed against them by James Burks II, Eugenia Burks, Martin Hester, Jacqueline Hester, Thomas Highfield, Carol Ann Highfield, Jake Jackson, and Melinda Jackson, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals ("the public-education plaintiffs"). PEEHIP, which is managed by the PEEHIP Board, provided group health-insurance benefits to public-education employees in Alabama. The public-education plaintiffs alleged that a policy adopted by the PEEHIP Board in 2009 changed the amounts participants and their eligible dependents, and this change violated Article V, section 138.03, Alabama Constitution of 1901, as well as the public-education plaintiffs' rights to equal protection, due process, and freedom of association under the Alabama Constitution, the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The public-education plaintiffs also alleged that the 2009 policy violated Alabama public policy and their right to family integrity as protected by the Alabama Constitution. The public-education plaintiffs sought relief in the form of: (1) a judgment declaring "[the PEEHIP defendants'] practice of denying an allotment for insurance benefits to educators who are married to another educator and who have dependent children to be unconstitutional, discriminatory and unlawful under both State and Federal law"; (2) an injunction preventing the PEEHIP defendants from "denying an allotment for insurance benefits to educators whose spouse is also an educator in the public school system and who have dependent children"; (3) restitution of "amounts ... unlawfully withheld and/or ... amounts [the public-education plaintiffs] have paid for insurance that they would not have paid absent [the PEEHIP defendants'] unlawful conduct" or other equitable relief; and (4) costs and attorney fees. After review of the specific facts of this case, the Alabama Supreme Court granted the petition in part, denied in part, and issue a writ to direct the circuit court to dismiss all the public-education plaintiffs' claims against RSA, PEEHIP, the PEEHIP Board, PEEHIF, TRS, the TRS Board, the members of the TRS Board, and Bronner, in his capacity as chief executive officer of RSA and as secretary-treasurer of TRS; to dismiss all the public-education plaintiffs' state-law claims against the members of the PEEHIP Board and Bronner, in his capacity as secretary-treasurer of PEEHIP; and to dismiss the public-education plaintiffs' claims against the members of the PEEHIP Board and Bronner, in his capacity as secretary-treasurer of PEEHIP, for monetary relief, pursuant to § 1983. The petition was denied with regard to the public-education plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief, pursuant to section 1983, against the members of the PEEHIP Board and Bronner, in his capacity as secretary-treasurer of PEEHIP. The PEEHIP Board and Bronner were entitled to immunity from the state law claims, but not to immunity from the Eleventh Amendment claims for prospective injunctive relief under section 1983.