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Termination of Municipal Employee - Common Law Writ of Certiorari - Appellate Procedure

Wiggins v. City of Evergreen, [Ms. 1170833, Sept. 20, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur) affirms on certiorari review the Conecuh Circuit Court’s judgment in favor of the City of Evergreen in an action filed by a former warrant clerk challenging her termination by the City. The employee was terminated for failure to issue a warrant. Ms. *5.

The Court first noted that “[b]ecause a municipal employee has no statutory right to appeal the termination of his or her employment, the trial court properly treated Wiggins’s complaint as a petition for a common-law writ of certiorari.” Ms. *9-10. The Court noted that

“[A] common-law writ of certiorari extends only to questions touching the jurisdiction of the subordinate tribunal and the legality of its proceedings. The appropriate office of the writ is to correct errors of law apparent on the face of the record. Conclusions of fact cannot be reviewed, unless specially authorized by statute. The trial is not de novo but on the record; and the only matter to be determined is the quashing or the affirmation of the proceedings brought up for review.”

Ms. *11, quoting G.W. v. Dale County Dep’t of Human Res., 939 So. 2d 931, 934 n. 4 (Ala. Civ. App. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The employee challenged her termination on the ground that it was not by a two-thirds vote of the City Council in a pre-termination hearing as required by § 11-43-160(a), Ala. Code 1975. The employee did not present this argument to the trial court and the Court “cannot consider arguments raised for the first time on appeal; ....” Ms. *12, quoting Marks v. Tenbrunsel, 910 So. 2d 1255, 1263 (Ala. 2005) (some internal quotation marks omitted). The Court noted that “[t]he well settled rule [that an appellate court’s review is limited to only those issues that were raised before the trial court] admits of no exception for cases in which legal issues, or the application of legal principles to undisputed facts, are considered de novo by the appellate court.” Ms. *12, n. 5, quoting Ex parte Knox, 201 So. 3d 1213, 1218 (Ala. 2015).

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