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STATE AGENT IMMUNITY - EX PARTE CECILIA J. DIXON AND CITY OF MONTGOMERY

In Ex parte Cecilia J. Dixon and City of Montgomery,[Ms. 1081048, Aug. 6, 2010],__So. 3d__(Ala. 2010), the Alabama Supreme Court held that the City of Montgomery and its employee, Cecilia Dixon, a major in the Montgomery City Police Department who was responsible for the operation of the Montgomery municipal jail, were entitled to immunity from tort liability. Linda Hollingsworth, the plaintiff, was a correctional officer at the Montgomery municipal jail. An inmate informed jail supervisors that some of his money was missing. Hollingsworth was the last known person to have the inmate's money. Dixon conducted a strip search of Hollingsworth in an attempt to find the money. Hollingsworth sued Dixon and the Montgomery City Police Department (for which the City of Montgomery appeared) for assault and battery, invasion of privacy, negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision, and false imprisonment. The Alabama Supreme Court held that Dixon had immunity under Ala. Code ¤ 6-5-338 and under Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392, 405 (Ala. 2000). The Court quoted Howard v. City of Atmore: "By enacting [¤ 6-5-338(a), the Legislature intended to afford municipal law-enforcement officials the immunity enjoyed by their state counterparts...Indeed, '[t]his statute, by its terms, extends state-agent immunity to peace officers performing discretionary functions within the line and scope of their law-enforcement duties.'" 887 So. 2d 201, 203-04 (Ala. 2003) (emphasis in original; citations omitted). The Court held that Dixon was a "peace officer," and thus entitled to immunity, regardless of whether she was functioning as an "administrator, supervisor, or jailer" at the time of the search in question. After quoting the Cranman factors at length, the Court also held that Dixon was entitled to state-agent immunity under that case because she was "exercising her judgment in the administration of a department of government when she determined...that the matter of the missing money required an expeditious resolution." The Court also held that Dixon did not act beyond her authority because the standard operating procedures manual provided that "[e]very person entering [the jail] is subject to be searched at any time." Finally, the Court held that the City of Montgomery had immunity because its employee was immune, citing City of Crossville v. Haynes, 925 So. 2d 944, 955 (Ala. 2005) and Ala. Code ¤ 6-5-338(b).

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