Mims v. Bentley et al
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 10/1/2015. (PSM)
2015 Oct-01 AM 10:24
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROBERT BENTLEY, et al,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Plaintiff Hasalee Mims brought this action against Robert Bentley, the
Governor of Alabama, and Ron Abernathy, the Sheriff of Tuscaloosa County
Alabama, alleging that the now repealed Alabama statute requiring sex offenders to
register is an unconstitutional ex post facto law as applied to him. Both Defendants
have moved to dismiss the claims against them. For the reasons stated below, the
motions are GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED with prejudice.
In 1980, Mims was convicted of rape in the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa
County Alabama. He served fifteen years in prison and was released in 2000. After
his release, Mims was required to comply with the now repealed Alabama sex
offender registration statute. He violated the statute and was convicted on October
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2, 2008. Mims received a ten year sentence, but it appears from the record that he
is currently serving that sentence on probation.
Mims filed a Rule 32 post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of
Tuscaloosa County on June 5, 2012 with the same claim as here—that his
conviction was pursuant to an ex post facto law. The Circuit Court denied the
petition. Mims appealed, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed
the appeal as untimely. While in prison, Mims filed a habeas petition against the
Attorney General of Alabama and the Warden of the prison in the Northern
District of Alabama. The Court held that his claims were time barred and
procedurally barred because Mims did not exhaust his state court remedies. 1
Mims filed suit asking this Court to declare Ala. Code § 15-20-22
unconstitutional. He did not specify in his complaint whether he is seeking
injunctive relief or monetary damages. However, the Court will address both forms
of relief. Following Defendant Ron Abernathy’s motion to dismiss, the Court
ordered Mims to respond to the motion, but he never filed a response.
The Court does not construe this as a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 because Mims is
not in the custody of the state. Although conditions other than imprisonment can “significantly
restrain [a person’s] liberty” and invoke habeas corpus, Mims’s complaint is not clear enough to
determine how significant the restraint on his liberty is. Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 243
(1963). However, insofar as Mims’s complaint could be construed as a habeas petition, it is
barred. It is a successive application that does not fall into an exception allowing another
application. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244.
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A. Injunctive Relief
Mims asks this court to declare Ala. Code § 15-20-22 unconstitutional. That
statutory scheme, requiring sex offenders to register, was repealed in 2011. It was
replaced with another scheme. However, Mims has not challenged the new statute.
Thus, insofar as Mims asks this court to declare the repealed statute
unconstitutional and grant injunctive relief, his claims are moot. See Coral Springs
Street Systems, Inc. v. Sunrise, 371 F.3d 1320, 1331 n.9 (11th Cir. 2004) (“The
federal courts of appeal have virtually uniformly held that the repeal of a challenged
ordinance will moot a plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief in the absence of some
evidence that the ordinance has been or is reasonably likely to be reenacted.”).
Although Alabama did enact similar registration requirements, the new statutory
scheme, Ala. Code § 15-20A-1 to -48, is different in many respects and is thus not a
reenactment of the old law.
B. Monetary Damages
Mims did not specifically ask for monetary damages. However, if the Court
were to construe his complaint to seek such relief, that claim would be time barred.
“All constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort actions, subject to the
statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the state where the §
1983 action has been brought.” McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168, 1173 (11th Cir.
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2008). In Alabama, the applicable statute of limitations is two years. Ala. Code § 62-8; see Lufkin v. McCallum, 956 F.2d 1104, 1106 (11th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, if
Mims had a valid § 1983 claim, he was required to bring it within two years from
the date when the limitations period began to run. “It has long been the law of this
Circuit that in § 1983 actions ‘the statute of limitations does not begin to run until
the facts which would support a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent
to a person with a reasonably prudent regard for his rights.’” McNair, 515 F.3d at
1173 (quoting Mullinax v. McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir. 1987)).
In his complaint, Mims states that the now repealed Alabama sex offender
registration statute first applied to him upon his release from prison on January 18,
2000. Thus, beginning upon his release, he was required to register with the sheriff
in the county in which he lived and otherwise comply with the statute. If the statute
violated his constitutional rights, it did so starting on January 18, 2000. Thus, the
period in which to bring a § 1983 action began running on that day and ended two
years later. Additionally, the statute was repealed in 2011, so it was not enforced
beyond that date. As a result, any unconstitutional application of that law ceased in
2011. Therefore, even if the statute of limitations period began running in 2011,
Mims’s claim would still be time barred. Accordingly, any § 1983 claim for
monetary damages based on the enforcement of an unconstitutional law is barred
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by the statute of limitations.
C. Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Moreover, Bentley, in his capacity as Governor, is immune from suit in his
official capacity. The Eleventh Amendment grants state entities and state officials
sued in their official capacity immunity from suit in federal courts. See Pennhurst
State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984). However, the Eleventh
Amendment does not provide immunity in suits against an official in his personal
capacity claiming “an ongoing violation of federal law and seek[ing] relief properly
characterized as prospective.” Idaho v. Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261,
296 (1997) (Ex Parte Young doctrine). This exception only applies to state officials
who take “action in enforcing state law.” Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 68 (1985).
Thus, unless the state official being sued is responsible for enforcing the challenged
state law, then the prospective or injunctive relief would be ineffective. See id.
In this case, the Governor is being sued in his official capacity. Thus, he is
immune from suit. Furthermore, the Governor cannot be sued in his personal
capacity under Ex Parte Young because he is not actively enforcing the challenged
law. Because the law is repealed, no state or local official is enforcing the law. Any
injunctive relief would be ineffective because Mims is not currently subject to the
challenged law. As such, the Governor is immune from suit.
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Mims’s challenge to the repealed Alabama sex offender registration statute is
moot as to any injunctive relief sought and time barred as to any monetary damages
sought. Further, any claim against the Governor is barred by Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Accordingly, the Defendants’ motions are GRANTED, and the case is
DISMISSED. A separate Order will be entered.
Done this 1st day of October 2015.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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