Strawser v. State of Alabama
ORDER DENYING Plfs' 60 Emergency Motion for Enforcement of Judgment as set out. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 2/20/2015. (tot)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES N. STRAWSER and JOHN
E. HUMPHREY, et. al.,
LUTHER STRANGE, in his official )
capacity as Attorney General for
the State of Alabama, et. al.,
CIVIL NO. 14-0424-CG-C
This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs’ Emergency Motion for
Enforcement of Injunction (Doc. 60), the Attorney General’s Response in
Opposition (Doc. 62), and Plaintiffs’ Reply (Doc. 64). This Court previously
enjoined the Attorney General and others in active concert and participation
with him from enforcing the Alabama laws prohibiting same-sex marriage
after ruling those laws are unconstitutional. (Doc. 29, p. 4).1 In light of this
injunction, Plaintiffs now move this Court to order the Attorney General to
exercise his control over litigation concerning the State of Alabama’s samesex marriage laws pending in the Alabama Supreme Court. (Doc. 60, p. 1).
After careful consideration and for the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs’
motion is DENIED.
This Court also addressed the constitutionality of the Alabama laws
prohibiting same-sex marriage in a companion case, Searcy v. Strange,
Southern District of Alabama Case No. 14-00208.
The Court is sympathetic to Plaintiffs’ position. After this Court issued
orders declaring unconstitutional the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, Ala.
Const. art. I, § 36.03, and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act, Ala. Code §
30-1-19, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court issued
administrative orders directing Alabama probate judges to uphold those
same laws. Then this Court ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis
to issue licenses to same-sex couples. (Doc. 55). Concurrently, two
organizations, the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action
Program, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus
directing all probate judges in Alabama to uphold the Marriage Amendment
and the Marriage Protection Act.2 Plaintiffs are thus concerned a state
mandamus prohibiting every probate judge from issuing same-sex marriage
licenses may result, in conflict with a federal order commanding a named
probate judge to issue such licenses. (Doc. 60, p. 9).
Despite the potential procedural imbroglio, Plaintiffs do not explain in
their motion what precisely entitles them to further relief against the
Attorney General at this time. Plaintiffs are citizens of Mobile County, and
this Court previously ordered the Mobile County Probate Court to issue
marriage licenses to them. It is also unclear how any Alabama Supreme
The Alabama Supreme Court action is case number 1140460, Ex Parte
State ex rel. Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program
v. Alan L. King, In his official capacity as Judge of Probate for Jefferson
County, Alabama, et al.
Court ruling may or may not harm Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have secured the
injunctive relief they seek pursuant to a federal court order.
In addition to procedural concerns, Plaintiffs argue state law gives the
Attorney General the authority to control all litigation concerning the
interests of the State. See Ala. Code § 36-15-21. Thus the Attorney General is
authorized to dismiss the mandamus action on behalf of the state. (Doc. 60, p.
7). By failing to act, Plaintiffs say the Attorney General is allowing “private
parties to stand in his shoes and speak in the name of the State as petitioner
relators” when he has the authority to control the prosecution of the
mandamus. (Doc. 60, pp. 9 – 10). The mandamus action in the name of the
State of Alabama, Plaintiffs argue, simply seeks to accomplish what the
Attorney General is prohibited from doing directly. (Doc. 60, p. 10).
Plaintiffs, however, do not specifically show how the Attorney General
is trying to get around this Court’s injunction. The Attorney General does not
appear to be in concert with the Alabama Policy Institute or the Alabama
Citizens Action Program, nor is he advising them. The Attorney General
attests he “did not authorize or encourage the Petitioners” to file the petition
for writ of mandamus. (Doc. 62, p. 4). Although the Attorney General
arguably could seek to control the mandamus action, Ex parte King, 59 So. 3d
21, 25 - 29 (Ala. 2010), he is not obligated to do so by this Court’s orders.3
Whether the Attorney General can seize control over privately initiated
litigation on behalf of the State remains a question of Alabama law. In
contrast, it is clear the Attorney General can seize control over litigation
Furthermore, even if the Attorney General elected to exercise control over
that proceeding and moved to dismiss the writ of mandamus petition, the
Alabama Supreme Court is the arbiter responsible for determining the
outcome of that case. (Doc. 62, p. 5).
Plaintiffs further argue the Attorney General’s action in permitting the
writ of mandamus petition to proceed is akin to “improperly thwarting the
denial of the State’s request for a stay of this Court’s orders by the Eleventh
Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.” (Doc. 60, p. 8). Yet again,
Plaintiffs present no concrete link between the Attorney General’s inaction
and the state court action brought by two private entities. The Attorney
General correctly observes that in this stage of the proceedings, the
“injunctions forbid the Attorney General to take action; they do not compel
action.” (Doc. 62, p. 4).
Finally, the mandamus action does not create any immediate conflict
with the previous orders of this Court. (Doc. 62, p. 3). Because the Alabama
Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will even address the merits of
the petition, any conflict is purely speculative at this point. Moreover, the
Attorney General recognizes “[r]egardless of how the Alabama Supreme
Court rules . . ., that ruling should not be an impediment to a person who is
denied a marriage license from bringing a lawsuit against the Probate Judge
who denied the license.” (Doc. 62, p. 3). In other words, non-party probate
initiated as the state by local prosecutors and other executive officers. See,
e.g., State ex rel. Carmichael v. Jones, 41 So. 2d 280, 283 (Ala. 1949).
judges could nevertheless issue same-sex marriage licenses if sued and
ordered by a federal court to do so.
In sum, Plaintiffs have not shown that they have suffered harm as a
result of the Attorney General’s conduct that can be redressed through
further relief against him. For these reasons, Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion
for Enforcement of Injunction (Doc. 60) is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 20th day of February, 2015.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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