Mykins v. Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) et al
ORDER granting 43 Motion for Summary Judgment. This action, and every claim asserted therein against these defendants, is dismissed with prejudice. Judgment shall be entered accordingly by separate order. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 12/12/2012. Copy mailed to Plaintiff. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROSA MYKINS, etc.,
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF
HUMAN RESOURCES, etc., et al.,
)CIVIL ACTION 11-0264-WS-M
This matter is before the Court on the remaining defendants’ motion for
summary judgment. (Doc. 43). The defendants filed a brief and evidentiary
materials in support of their motion, (Docs. 44, 45), the plaintiff declined the
opportunity to file any opposition, (Doc. 46), and the motion is ripe for resolution.
The amended complaint asserts claims under Title VI, Section 1985(3) and
Section 1986. (Doc. 30). Before this lawsuit was filed, the plaintiff, individually
and as legal guardian of her two grandchildren, filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court
of Baldwin County against the same defendants (and two others) alleging nine
causes of action, including for violations of Title VI and Section 1985(3). (Doc.
45, Exhibit 23). A comparison of these documents reveals that the claims in the
state lawsuit were based on exactly the same allegations and theories as in this
action, and the Title VI and Section 1985(3) counts as between the two lawsuits
are almost verbatim images of each other.
The defendants moved to dismiss the state lawsuit under Rule 12(b). With
respect to the Title VI claim, the defendants argued: (1) that no Section 1983
claim existed against the foster parent defendants; (2) that the DHR defendants
possessed absolute sovereign immunity; and (3) that the plaintiff failed to state a
claim because she lacked standing. With respect to the Section 1985(3) claim, the
defendants raised again the DHR defendants’ sovereign immunity and also argued
that the plaintiff failed to state a claim, both because there was no underlying
wrong and because she inadequately pleaded the elements of such a claim. (Doc.
45, Exhibit 22). After a hearing, (Doc. 45, Exhibit 25), the state court granted the
motion to dismiss “pursuant to Rule 12(b).” (Id., Exhibit 26). Three days later,
the plaintiff filed this lawsuit. (Doc. 1).
“When we are considering whether to give res judicata effect to a state
court judgment, we must apply the res judicata principles of the law of the state
whose decision is set up as a bar to further litigation.” Green v. Jefferson County
Commission, 563 F.3d 1243, 1252 (11th Cir. 2009). Alabama’s res judicata
principles thus govern.
“Under Alabama law, the essential elements of res judicata are (1) a prior
judgment on the merits, (2) rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) with
substantial identity of the parties, and (4) with the same cause of action presented
in both actions.” Green, 563 F.3d at 1252 (internal quotes omitted). “If all four
elements are met, any claim that was, or could have been, adjudicated in the prior
action is barred from future litigation.” Id.
The state judge dismissed the state action under Rule 12(b) and on the
grounds asserted by the defendants. “Unless the court in its order for dismissal
otherwise specifies, a dismissal under this subdivision and any dismissal not
provided for in this rule, other than a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, for
improper venue, or for failure to join a party under Rule 19, operates as an
adjudication on the merits.” Ala. R. Civ. P. 41(b). The defendants did not raise
lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or failure to join a party, and the Court’s
order did not specify that it was not an adjudication on the merits. Accordingly, it
was such an adjudication. E.g., Henry L. Clothier, Jr. v. Counseling, Inc., 875 So.
2d 1198, 1199-1200 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003).
The circuit court was plainly of competent jurisdiction, as it is the court of
general jurisdiction. Ala. Code § 12-11-30(1). The plaintiff is the same in both
cases (even to the extent of appearing both individually and as her grandchildren’s
legal guardian), and the four defendants remaining in this case are among the six
defendants in the state lawsuit. There is thus a substantial identity of parties.
Two of the three causes of action presented in this action were presented in
the state action, and on precisely the same basis. The Section 1986 claim was not
presented in the state action, but that is immaterial. “[W]hether the second action
presents the same cause of action depends on whether the issues in the two actions
are the same and on whether substantially the same evidence would support a
recovery in both actions.” Equity Resources Management, Inc. v. Vinson, 723 So.
2d 634, 636 (Ala. 1998). “Res judicata applies not only to the exact legal theories
advanced in the prior case, but to all legal theories and claims arising out of the
same nucleus of operative facts.” Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Lanier, 790 So.
2d 922, 928 (Ala. 2000). That connection is clearly present here, since “Section
1986 claims are … derivative of § 1985 violations.” Park v. City of Atlanta, 120
F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 1997); accord Farese v. Scherer, 342 F.3d 1223,
1232 n.12 (11th Cir. 2003).
Because all four elements of res judicata under Alabama law are satisfied,
this action as expressed in the amended complaint is barred by the doctrine.
Accordingly, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted. This
action, and every claim asserted therein against these defendants, is dismissed
with prejudice. Judgment shall be entered accordingly by separate order.
DONE and ORDERED this 12th day of December, 2012.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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