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Alabama


Ex parte James, 836 So. 2d 813 (Ala. 2002)

The Court in this case entered an order sua sponte to dismiss the state’s school funding litigation started over 10 years earlier and withdraw from involvement in school funding matters on the ground that its involvement is an intrusion into legislative affairs. The Court noted the state constitutional provision stating that the Court "shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men," Ala. Const. 1901, § 43 (emphasis added by Court), noted that “[c]oncerns regarding judicial restraint and the separation of powers have constituted a repeated refrain in this litigation,” and concluded, “[W]e now recognize that any specific remedy that the judiciary could impose would, in order to be effective, necessarily involve a usurpation of that power entrusted exclusively to the Legislature. Accordingly, compelled by the authorities discussed above -- primarily by our duty under § 43 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901 -- we complete our judicially prudent retreat from this province of the legislative branch in order that we may remain obedient to the command of the people of the State of Alabama that we "never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men." 836 So.2d at 814, 815, 819.

Ex parte James, 713 So.2d 869 (Ala. 1997).

The Court vacated in part, as premature, the remedial order entered by the trial court following a ruling that the state’s public school system failed to satisfy the constitutional mandate, stating that it did not disapprove of the remedial plan ordered by the trial court, it only disapproved of the plan’s timing. The Court stated: “[T]he judiciary should not presume at the outset of litigation of this nature that legislative and executive officials will be derelict in their duties. Indeed, it must assume the contrary. The best approach for the judiciary, having invalidated the present public education system, would be to stay further action in the case--but retaining jurisdiction--for a reasonable time, thus affording the legislative and executive officials the first opportunity to devise a constitutional public education system. In other words, the judiciary should--upon its first encounter with this species of litigation--forgo specific remedial action until the coordinate branches of government have had a reasonable opportunity to discharge their constitutional responsibilities consistent with its holding of liability." 713 So.2d at 882 (emphasis in original).

Pinto v. Alabama Coal. for Equity, 662 So.2d 894 (Ala. 1995).

Several groups brought class action lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's system of public elementary and secondary education, which they contended did not offer equitable and adequate opportunities to the schoolchildren of the state, including children with disabilities. The class actions were consolidated and divided into a liability phase and a remedy phase. The trial court found that the system of public schools violated the statutory and constitutional rights of schoolchildren, and it ordered various state officers to establish and maintain a public school system that provided adequate and equitable opportunities for all children. Two days before a fairness hearing set to assess the reasonableness of a remedy plan, the intervenors sought to intervene as of right, and the trial court denied their motions. The court held that they were entitled to intervene in the remedy phase as a matter of right because of the unique nature of the litigation and the fact that the intervenors purported to represent individuals that were not already represented.

Opinion of the Justices, No. 338, 624 So.2d 107 (Ala. 1993)

After the Circuit Court of Montgomery County (Alabama) held that the state’s public school system failed to comply with the mandate of Ala. Const. art. XIV, § 256, legislation was introduced in the state senate, including a finding (based on a finding of the trial court) that the Legislature was required “to provide schoolchildren with substantially equitable and adequate educational opportunities.” The senate sought an advisory opinion as to whether that finding was correct, and the Alabama Supreme Court advised that it was.

Alabama Coal. for Equity (ACE) v. Hunt, 1993 WL 204083 (Ala. Cir. Ct. 1993), appendix to Opinion of the Justices, No. 338, 624 So.2d 107 (Ala. 1993).

The Circuit Court determined that plaintiffs were entitled to a declaratory judgment that the state’s system of public schools violated the constitutional mandate of article XIV, § 256, and the provisions of article I §§ 1, 6, 13, and 22 of the Alabama Constitution (due process and equal protection clauses), because it failed to provide “equitable and adequate educational opportunities to all schoolchildren” and failed to provide “appropriate instruction and special services” to children with disabilities.