Walker, et al. v. Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Educ., et al., No. 13-14182 (11th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
In consolidated appeals, the Jefferson County Board of Education and the Madison City Board of Education ask the court to recede from its opinion in Stewart v. Baldwin Cnty. Bd. of Educ., which held that school boards in Alabama are not arms of the state and therefore not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The court declined to read Versiglio II in a way which violates the court's prior panel precedent rule and creates interpretive problems for panels in the future; although the court recognized the principle of state sovereign immunity law in Stewart, the court did not find it determinative, and held that Alabama school boards could not assert Eleventh Amendment immunity; the court's precedent does not provide a basis for it to conclude that Stewart has been abrogated; the court noted that the Alabama courts do not view state sovereign immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity as one and the same; and the Alabama Supreme Court's Ex Parte Madison Cnty. Bd. of Educ. decision agrees with Stewart. The court concluded that both cases before it concern employment-related decisions and under Stewart, local school boards in Alabama are not arms of the state with respect to such decisions. Consequently, the Jefferson County Board of Education and the Madison City Board of Education are not immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suits challenging those decisions under federal law; the district court's dismissal of the complaint in Walker (Case Nos. 13-14182 and 13-14927) is reversed; and the district court's denial of the motion of dismiss in Weaver (Case No. 13-14624) is affirmed.