Thursday, August 16, 2018

U.S. 11th Circuit simplifies Alabama immunity law, making it clear officers are not protected when they act with malice, bad faith, or beyond their authority

Chris Blevins
Alabama has recognized so many forms of legal immunity over the years that it causes mass confusion for anyone trying to get a grip on the subject. In my research, I've encountered probably 8-10 (maybe more) forms of immunity that can apply to Alabamians. Some are based on state law, some on federal law, and some . . . heck, I don't know where they come from.

A 2010 opinion from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) helped cut through the clutter by proclaiming that Alabama now recognizes only two forms of state immunity -- and it's clear neither affects the Shelby County law-enforcement types who are defendants in our "Jail Case." (Various forms of federal immunity, of course, still apply in Alabama, but those are not a factor in the Jail Case.)

U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins wrongly dismissed our state-law claims against former Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and deputies Chris Blevins, Jason Valenti, and Mike DeHart. How do we know Hopkins got it wrong? Well, we spelled it out in two previous posts. (See here and here.) And a case styled Grider v. City of Auburn, 618 F.3d 1240 (11th Cir., 2010) provides even more clarity. (Hopkins' judgment, and our Rule 59 motion -- plus our two amendments to the motion -- are embedded at the end of this post.) From the Grider ruling:

“As for Plaintiffs' state-law claims, Alabama recognizes two types of state-law immunity: "state-agent immunity" and "discretionary-function immunity. Brown v. City of Huntsville, 608 F.3d 724 (discussing Alabama's two types of state-law immunity). First, state-agent immunity under Alabama's common law protects state employees, as agents of the State, in the exercise of their judgment in executing their work responsibilities." Ex parte Hayles, 852 So.2d 117, 122 (Ala.2002). In Ex parte Cranman, 792 So.2d 392 (Ala. 2000), a plurality of the Alabama Supreme Court restated and clarified the scope of Alabama's state-agent immunity doctrine, which may apply to all Defendants.”

State-agent immunity, according to Grider, does not apply to the law-enforcement defendants in the Jail Case. Discretionary-function immunity, however, does apply. From Grider:

“Second, there is statutory, discretionary-function immunity for law enforcement officers in Alabama. Brown, 608 F.3d at 741. Specifically, § 6-5-338 of the Alabama Code contains a provision immunizing law enforcement officers from tort liability for conduct within the scope of their discretionary law enforcement duties. Ala.Code § 6-5-338(a) (1994) "Every peace officer ... shall have immunity from tort liability arising out of his or her conduct in performance of any discretionary function within the line and scope of his or her law enforcement duties." Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 883 (11th Cir. 2003).

Does discretionary-function immunity provide absolute protection for law-enforcement officials? Absolutely not, as the Grider court makes clear, citing a case styled Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392 (Ala., 2000). From Grider: (Citations omitted, but they are included in court documents below.)

Cranman's test for state-agent immunity also governs whether law enforcement officers are entitled to statutory, discretionary-function immunity under § 6-5-338(a). This includes the Reynolds burden-shifting framework, first requiring the defendant law enforcement officer to show that he was acting within the ambit of his discretionary functions and then shifting the burden to the plaintiff to show "bad intent" — that the officer acted willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority — in order to defeat the officer's discretionary-function immunity. ("The restatement of State-agent immunity as set out in Cranman, now governs the determination of whether a peace officer is entitled to immunity under § 6-5-338(a)."). Thus, Plaintiffs can pierce both state-agent immunity and discretionary-function immunity by showing that Defendants . . . acted "willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law."

Can we show in the Jail Case that Blevins and Co. acted in such a fashion -- maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, etc.? Given that Blevins broke into our home, without a warrant, and beat me up while making an arrest that involved no criminal allegations, much less felony allegations . . . I would say there is no doubt we can prove the officers acted in a manner that removes the cloak of state immunity.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

What kind of sorry-ass training do these cops get that makes them think they can break into a private residence like this?

Anonymous said...

This thug looks like a character out of WWF.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:38 --

I'm sure training is poor in many law enforcement outfits, but I don't think this was a case of poor training. Even a dumb bell like Blevins knows he can't do this, but some higher up told him to do it, so he did it. That's where bad faith, malice, etc. enter the picture.

Anonymous said...

Blevins should wind up in federal prison for this. It's a criminal violation of your civil rights.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:43 --

You are correct. It's called deprivation of rights under color of law -- 18 U.S.C 242

legalschnauzer said...

Forgot to mention that Blevins could face up to 10 years in prison for causing bodily injury and using a dangerous weapon (pepper spray), and he could get a life sentence for what amounts to a kidnapping.

Anonymous said...

Blevins looks like a real charmer. Is that snarl permanently attached to his face?

Anonymous said...

Blevins wasn't acting in the "line and scope" of his employment. He was taking directions from Rob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Bill Pryor and that gang of sleaze balls. Luther Strange, as state AG, probably was the one who ordered this.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:59 --

Agreed. I think Luther Strange, with a push from others, is the No. 1 suspect for ordering this. As AG, he was chief law enforcement officer of the state, so sheriffs and deputies pretty much answer to him.

Also, I suspect Alabama State Bar was involved, and it likely was driven by a number of factors, including my reporting on Strange's affair with Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Bill Pryor's badpuppy history. Evidence also points to Ali Akbar and his right-wing National Bloggers Club being involved.

As Garrison's lawyer, Bill Baxley is in the middle of this -- and Doug Jones undoubtedly knows all about it -- so it shows certain Alabama "Democrats" don't have integrity either.

Anonymous said...

As we move closer to becoming a police state, the information in this post becomes more and more important.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't Hopkins, the judge in your case, be familiar with 11th Circuit precedent?

She is, after all, in the 11th Circuit.

legalschnauzer said...

@2:48 --

You would think.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like the work of the Dixie Mafia and/or KKK.

Sheriff's departments are filled with Kluxers.

Anonymous said...

Funny, that you were targeted for being a journalist in 2013-14, and now we have a "president" who attacks journalists almost every day -- and he was put in office by a foreign thug who has journalists murdered.

Anonymous said...

If Blevins winds up in prison, who will supply him with roids?

Anonymous said...

What happened to the trolls who used to try to prove you were wrong about this or that point of law? They seem to have gone silent.

legalschnauzer said...

@3:47 --

Maybe they got tired of being proven wrong. One quibble with your comment: The trolls never really tried to prove I was wrong because they were too lazy and intellectually deficient to do that. Like most trolls, they resorted to snark and harassment, which is about all they have in their toolkit.

In truth, I think I know why they've gone silent. Recent events, on which I've reported some and soon will report much more, have brought me closer to the truth about who is behind my false arrest, the theft of our home, the loss of our jobs, Carol's broken arm, the court cheat jobs in multiple states, etc. Certain people know I am on to them, and any comments they send now could become additional evidence of their involvement. Hence, the silence.