Appeal From Board of Equalization – Subject-Matter Jurisdiction


Ex parte Mobile County Board of Equalization, [Ms. 1210058, July 8, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). In a plurality opinion, the Court (Stewart, J.; Mitchell, J., concurs; Shaw, Wise, and Bryan, JJ., concur in the result; Mendheim, J., concurs in the result; Parker, C.J., dissents; Sellers, J., dissents, which Bolin, J., joins) grants the Mobile County Board of Equalization’s (“the Board”) petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Mobile Circuit Court to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, an appeal filed by Atwood Drilling, Inc. (“Atwood”) challenging the Board’s final assessment of ad valorem personal property taxes due from the company. To perfect an appeal and vest jurisdiction in the trial court, a taxpayer “must either execute a supersedeas bond at the time of taking the appeal or pay the assessed taxes before they become delinquent.” Ms. **9-10.

“A trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss for failure to comply with the requirements of § 40-3-25 [Ala. Code 1975] presents a question of subject-matter jurisdiction... ‘The question of subject-matter jurisdiction is reviewable by a petition for a writ of mandamus.’ Ex parte Liberty Nat’l Life Ins. Co., 888 So. 2d 478, 480 (Ala. 2003).” Ms. *7. The opinion explains

“The burden of establishing the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction falls on the party invoking that jurisdiction.” Crutcher v. Williams, 12 So. 3d 631, 635 (Ala. 2008). Once a defendant has moved to dismiss a case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff is then required to establish the “factual predicates of jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Ex parte Safeway Ins. Co. of Alabama, Inc., 990 So. 2d 344, 349 (Ala. 2008) (citations omitted).”

Ms. *10. And clarifies that “[w]hen a defendant seeks from this Court a writ of mandamus directing a trial court to dismiss an action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the defendant establishes a clear legal right to dismissal if the plaintiff has failed to prove subject-matter jurisdiction below. Ex parte Safeway, 990 So. 2d at 352.” Ms. *10, n. 4.

A plurality of the Court concludes that Atwood failed “to establish the trial court’s subject-matter jurisdiction under § 40-3-25.” Atwood was not entitled to the presumption of delivery and payment on the postmark date because the presumption under § 40-1-45, Ala. Code 1975 is only available where “(1) a return receipt was requested, (2) the return receipt reflects delivery, the time of delivery, and the identity of the recipient, and (3) the recipient was the proper official.”

Ms. **15-16.

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