Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Johnson, et al. v. Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington, [Ms. SC-2022-0897, June 30, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Shaw, Bryan, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Sellers, J., concurs specially; Parker, C.J., concurs in the result; Cook, J., dissents; Wise, J., recuses) affirms the Montgomery Circuit Court’s dismissal of claims against Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington asserted by applicants for unemployment benefits who sought to improve the speed and manner of the Department’s processing applications for unemployment benefits.

The Court begins its analysis “by asking whether the Legislature has prohibited courts from exercising jurisdiction over unexhausted claims related to a plaintiff’s pursuit of unemployment-compensation benefits, because that is the only jurisdictional question that applies to all the claims brought by all the plaintiffs.” Ms. *8. The Court holds all of plaintiffs’ “claims, in substance, seek relief related to ‘the making of determinations with respect to [their] claims for unemployment compensation benefits,’ § 25-4-96, yet none of those claims has been administratively exhausted. As a result, the circuit court and this Court have no power to address the merits of those claims.” Ms. **14-15.

The Court also holds that even if “§ 1983 preempts any and all independent exhaustion requirements found in State law, that preemption would at most allow the plaintiffs to bring their unexhausted claims in federal court. It would not allow them to compel State courts to adjudicate federal claims that lie outside the State courts’ jurisdiction.” Ms. *14.

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