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Declaratory Judgment Act - Advisory Opinions: Walker County Commission V. Kelly

Walker County Commission v. Kelly, [Ms. 1160862, Mar. 9, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). The Court (Wise, J., Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Main, and Bryan, JJ., concur; Sellers, J., dissents) dismisses an appeal by the Walker County Commission and its Commissioners from a summary judgment entered by the Walker Circuit Court in favor of the Walker County Civil Service Board and its board members in a dispute concerning how a former revenue auditor was suspended, reprimanded, and terminated from her employment. The Commission alleged the Board violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act, § 36-25A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, and sought a declaratory judgment from the circuit court concerning the Board's conduct in how it reached its conclusions regarding the revenue officer's employment status.

The Supreme Court concludes that the Commission's action against the Board essentially sought legal advice from the circuit court and thus did not properly invoke the Declaratory Judgment Act, § 6-6-220 et seq., Ala. Code 1975:

"The Declaratory Judgment Act, § 6-6-220 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, is not a vehicle for obtaining legal advice from the courts:

"'The Declaratory Judgment Act, codified at §§ 6-6-220 through -232, Ala. Code 1975, "does not '"empower courts to ... give advisory opinions, however convenient it might be to have these questions decided for the government of future cases."'" Bruner v. Geneva County Forestry Dep't, 865 So. 2d 1167, 1175 (Ala. 2003) (quoting Stamps v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 642 So. 2d 941, 944 (Ala. 1994), quoting in turn Town of Warrior v. Blaylock, 275 Ala. 113, 114, 152 So. 2d 661, 662 (1963) (emphasis added in Stamps). ...'

"Bedsole, 912 So. 2d at 518."

Etowah Baptist Ass'n v. Entrekin, 45 So. 3d 1266, 1274 (Ala. 2010). See also Ex parte Bridges, 925 So. 2d 189, 192 (Ala. 2005).

Ms. *13. Because there was no bona fide existing controversy of a justiciable character to infer upon the Walker Circuit Court jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief, and there was no justiciable controversy existing when the suit was commenced, the trial court had no jurisdiction. Ms. *15 (quoting State ex rel. Baxley v. Johnson, 293 Ala. 69, 73, 300 So. 2d 106, 110 (1974). Accordingly, the circuit court never obtained subject-matter jurisdiction and its judgment was therefore void such that it would not support an appeal. Ms. *16.

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