Johnson, et al. v. WashingtonAnnotate this Case
With the onset of COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Labor received a record number of applications for unemployment benefits. The Department struggled to process the additional million-plus applications in a timely fashion. The plaintiffs-appellants in this case were among the many individuals who experienced delays in the handling of their applications. They brought this lawsuit in an effort to jumpstart the administrative-approval process. In their operative joint complaint, each plaintiff raised multiple claims for relief, all of which sought to compel the Alabama Secretary of Labor, Fitzgerald Washington, to improve the speed and manner in which the Department processes their applications for unemployment benefits. Secretary Washington responded to the suit by asking the circuit court to dismiss all claims against him, arguing (among other things) that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the suit because the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted mandatory administrative remedies. After the circuit court granted that motion, the plaintiffs appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with Secretary Washington that the Legislature prohibited courts from exercising jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims at this stage. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court's judgment of dismissal.