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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA

March 10, 2015

1140460
Ex p a r t e S t a t e o f Alabama ex r e l . Alabama P o l i c y I n s t i t u t e ,
Alabama C i t i z e n s A c t i o n Program, and John E. E n s l e n , i n h i s
o f f i c i a l c a p a c i t y as Judge o f Probate f o r Elmore County.
ORDER
I n an o p i n i o n i s s u e d on March 3, 2015, t h i s Court o r d e r e d
Judge Don D a v i s , t h e Probate Judge f o r M o b i l e County,
"to a d v i s e t h i s C o u r t , by l e t t e r b r i e f , no l a t e r
than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, 2015, as t o
whether he i s bound by any e x i s t i n g f e d e r a l c o u r t
o r d e r r e g a r d i n g t h e i s s u a n c e o f any m a r r i a g e l i c e n s e
o t h e r t h a n t h e f o u r m a r r i a g e l i c e n s e s he was o r d e r e d
t o i s s u e i n S t r a w s e r [v. Strange { C i v i l A c t i o n No.
14-0424-CG-C, J a n . 26, 2015) ] . [^] "
On March 5, Judge D a v i s

filed

a mot i o n

s e e k i n g an 11-day

e x t e n s i o n o f time, u n t i l March 16, 2015, t o comply w i t h t h i s
Court's order.

On March 9, Judge D a v i s f i l e d a "Response t o

Show Cause Order"

i n which he a s s e r t s t h a t he s h o u l d not be

i n c l u d e d i n t h i s C o u r t ' s March 3 o r d e r out o f concern t h a t
d o i n g so would r e q u i r e him t o v i o l a t e

the f e d e r a l

district

^The d e c i s i o n o f t h e f e d e r a l d i s t r i c t c o u r t i n S t r a w s e r
was premised on i t s e a r l i e r d e c i s i o n i n S e a r c y v. Strange.
[ C i v i l A c t i o n No. 14-0208-CG-N, Jan. 23, 2015]
F. Supp. 3d
(S.D. A l a . 2015).

1140460
c o u r t o r d e r p r e v i o u s l y e n t e r e d i n Strawser.^
Judge

Davis's

concern

t o be w i t h o u t

Because we f i n d

merit,

and f o r t h e

a d d i t i o n a l reasons d i s c u s s e d below. Judge D a v i s ' s motion f o r
e x t e n s i o n i s d e n i e d , and he i s added as a respondent

to this

mandamus p r o c e e d i n g and i s e n j o i n e d from i s s u i n g any f u r t h e r
marriage l i c e n s e s c o n t r a r y t o Alabama law.
Judge D a v i s asks f o r t h e 11-day e x t e n s i o n t o respond t o
t h i s C o u r t ' s q u e s t i o n because he has asked f o r a " r u l i n g " as
t o t h a t q u e s t i o n from t h e Alabama J u d i c i a l I n q u i r y Commission
("the J I C " ) :
"As grounds f o r t h i s M o t i o n , Judge D a v i s s e t s out as
follows:
"2. Judge D a v i s has sought i n s t r u c t i o n today
from t h e Alabama J u d i c i a l I n q u i r y Commission.
"3. Proper response t o t h i s Court i s b e s t made
a f t e r [ U n i t e d S t a t e s D i s t r i c t Court] Judge Granade
r u l e s and/or a f t e r t h e Alabama J u d i c i a l I n q u i r y
Commission r u l e s . "
(Emphasis added.)
a f a c t u a l one.

Our i n q u i r y t o Judge D a v i s was i n t e n d e d as

We f a i l

t o see what knowledge t h e J I C might

have as t o t h e f a c t s r e g a r d i n g whether Judge D a v i s i s bound by

^A " c o r r e c t e d " copy o f Judge D a v i s ' s response has s i n c e
been f i l e d w i t h t h i s C o u r t .
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an o r d e r i n any case o t h e r than S t r a w s e r v. Strange

(Civil

A c t i o n No. 14 - 0424-CG-C, J a n . 26, 2015), o r t h e f a c t of what
the

Strawser

order

says.

As

t o the l a t t e r ,

t h e t a s k of

r e a d i n g t h e o r d e r i n S t r a w s e r and u n d e r s t a n d i n g what i t says
i s t h e t a s k o f t h i s C o u r t , not t h e J I C . ^
Judge D a v i s
district

a l s o notes

t h a t he has asked

the f e d e r a l

court " f o r a stay" of i t s order i n Strawser.

The

f a c t o f t h i s r e q u e s t o f f e r s no b a s i s f o r d e l a y h e r e ; indeed,
the p r o s p e c t of such a s t a y by the f e d e r a l c o u r t i s c o m p a t i b l e
w i t h the a c t i o n of t h i s Court.

F u r t h e r , Judge D a v i s has made

no showing t h a t t h e f e d e r a l c o u r t o r d e r f o r which he seeks a
s t a y i s one t h a t has not a l r e a d y been e x e c u t e d , i . e . , one t h a t
concerns any l i c e n s e o t h e r than those a l r e a d y i s s u e d t o t h e
p l a i n t i f f s i n t h a t case.

^The l a t t e r t a s k i s t o r e a d the S t r a w s e r o r d e r and t o
c o n s i d e r the import, i f any, of t h a t o r d e r as a d e c i s i o n by a
c o u r t i n a c o o r d i n a t e j u d i c i a l system. The J I C i s a t r i b u n a l
commissioned s o l e l y f o r t h e i n v e s t i g a t i o n and p r o s e c u t i o n o f
" c o m p l a i n t s " a g a i n s t judges r e g a r d i n g v i o l a t i o n o f t h e Canons
of J u d i c i a l E t h i c s and the p h y s i c a l and mental a b i l i t y of
judges t o p e r f o r m t h e i r d u t i e s . A l a . Const. 1901, § 156. I t
i s not a c o u r t of law, and i t has no a u t h o r i t y -- and no r o l e
t o p l a y -- i n the performance
by t h i s Court of i t s
c o n s t i t u t i o n a l d u t i e s as a c o u r t o f law t o d e c i d e the cases
brought b e f o r e i t .

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Our

o p i n i o n of

March

3

serves

as

binding

statewide

precedent.

To ensure compliance w i t h t h a t p r e c e d e n t , we

entered

t h a t date

on

specifically

and

as p a r t of our

d i r e c t i n g Alabama p r o b a t e

o p i n i o n an

judges

marriage l i c e n s e s c o n t r a r y t o t h a t p r e c e d e n t .
no showing t h a t he was,
entered

federal

Strawser,

and

not

also
order

to issue

D a v i s has made

o r i s , the s u b j e c t of any p r e v i o u s l y

court order other

he makes no

than

the

one

issued i n

showing t h a t t h a t o r d e r has

any

c o n t i n u i n g , b i n d i n g e f f e c t on him as t o any m a r r i a g e - l i c e n s e
a p p l i c a n t s beyond the f o u r c o u p l e s who were the p l a i n t i f f s i n
that

case

requested.
any

other

and

who

a l r e a d y have

The i n a p p l i c a b i l i t y
couple

r e c e i v e d the

relief

they

of the f e d e r a l c o u r t o r d e r t o

i s evident

from

the

terms

of

the

order

itself:
"Probate Judge Don D a v i s i s hereby ENJOINED from
r e f u s i n g to i s s u e marriage l i c e n s e s t o p l a i n t i f f s
due t o the Alabama laws which p r o h i b i t same-sex
marriage.
I f P l a i n t i f f s take a l l steps that are
r e q u i r e d i n the normal c o u r s e o f b u s i n e s s as a
p r e r e q u i s i t e to i s s u i n g a marriage
license
to
o p p o s i t e - s e x c o u p l e s . Judge D a v i s may not deny them
a l i c e n s e on the ground t h a t P l a i n t i f f s c o n s t i t u t e
• same-sex c o u p l e s o r because i t i s p r o h i b i t e d by the
S a n c t i t y of M a r r i a g e Amendment[, A l a . Const. 1901,
§ 36.03,] and the Alabama M a r r i a g e P r o t e c t i o n A c t [ ,
A l a . Code 1975, § 30-1-19,] o r by any o t h e r Alabama
law o r Order p e r t a i n i n g t o same-sex m a r r i a g e . "

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1140460
{Capitalization i n original;

emphasis added.)

I n h i s motion, Judge Davis h i m s e l f p l a c e s emphasis on the
same passages we have emphasized above.
showing

otherwise,

accordance

with

we

are l e f t

i t s plain

r e l i e f a g a i n s t Judge D a v i s
Strawser.

I n t h e absence o f a

t o read

meaning:

this

I t grants

language i n
inj unctive

o n l y as " t o [the] p l a i n t i f f s " i n

Our r e a d i n g o f t h i s p l a i n language i s c o n f i r m e d by

the f a c t t h a t t h e p l a i n t i f f s i n S t r a w s e r sought r e l i e f o n l y on
t h e i r own b e h a l f , n o t on b e h a l f o f any o t h e r s , and by t h e f a c t
that f e d e r a l j u r i s p r u d e n c e contemplates t h a t a f e d e r a l
decides

o n l y t h e case b e f o r e

Alabama P o l i c y

Institute.

So. 3d

(Part II.C.)

,

court

i t , see Ex p a r t e S t a t e ex r e l .

[Ms. 114 0460, March 3, 2 015]
(Ala. 2 0 1 5 ) / i n t u r n binding the

^As we n o t e d i n P a r t I I . C , "'"[a] d e c i s i o n of a f e d e r a l
d i s t r i c t c o u r t judge i s n o t b i n d i n g p r e c e d e n t i n e i t h e r a
d i f f e r e n t j u d i c i a l d i s t r i c t , t h e same j u d i c i a l d i s t r i c t , o r
even upon t h e same judge i n a d i f f e r e n t case, " ' "
So. 3d a t
( q u o t i n g Camreta v. Greene,
U.S.
,
n.7, 131 S.
Ct. 2020, 2033 n.7 (2011), q u o t i n g i n t u r n 18 J . Moore e t a l . ,
Moore's F e d e r a l P r a c t i c e § 134.02 [1] [d] , pp. 134-26 (3d ed.
2011)), much l e s s upon a defendant sued by new p l a i n t i f f s i n
a d i f f e r e n t case. The p r i n c i p l e quoted above from the U n i t e d
S t a t e s Supreme Court d e c i s i o n i n Camreta was m a n i f e s t l y
r e f l e c t e d i n o r d e r s e n t e r e d on t h i s date by t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s
D i s t r i c t Court f o r t h e M i d d l e D i s t r i c t of Alabama, i n which
t h a t c o u r t chose t o s t a y i t s c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f a case s i m i l a r
to Strawser and s t a t e d t h a t " [t] h i s c o u r t i s n o t bound by
Searcy."
Hard v. B e n t l e y
(Case No. 2:13-cv-00922-WKW;
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1140460
p a r t i e s b e f o r e them o n l y w i t h r e s p e c t t o the o t h e r p a r t i e s i n
the

case/
Notwithstanding

enj o i n e d by

the

plain

d e s c r i p t i o n of

the quoted language i n the

the

activity

f e d e r a l court

order

r e q u i r i n g Judge D a v i s t o i s s u e l i c e n s e s " t o [the] p l a i n t i f f s "
in

the

Strawser

following

case,

language

Judge

Davis

somehow was

questions

intended

to

whether

e n j o i n him

r e l a t i o n t o p e r s o n s o t h e r t h a n the f o u r c o u p l e s who
o b t a i n e d a judgment a g a i n s t him

March 10, 2015)

{M.D.

sued

the
in
and

for t h e i r personal benefit:

Ala.}.

^In Brenner v. S c o t t (No. 4:14cvl07, Jan. 1, 2015)
(N.D.
F l a . ) , a case s i m i l a r i n many r e s p e c t s t o the p r e s e n t one, the
c o u r t e x p l a i n e d t h a t " [ t ] h e C l e r k has acknowledged t h a t the
p r e l i m i n a r y i n j u n c t i o n r e q u i r e s her t o i s s u e a m a r r i a g e
l i c e n s e t o the two u n m a r r i e d p l a i n t i f f s , " but t h a t , i n "the
absence of any r e q u e s t by any o t h e r p l a i n t i f f f o r a l i c e n s e , "
" [ t ] h e p r e l i m i n a r y i n j u n c t i o n now i n e f f e c t does not r e q u i r e
the C l e r k t o i s s u e l i c e n s e s t o o t h e r a p p l i c a n t s . " See a l s o
Vikram David
Amar, J u s t i a - V e r d i c t , F e b r u a r y 13,
2015 ;
https://verdict.justia.com/2015/02/13/
just-lawless-alabamastate-court-j udges-refus ing-issue- sex-marriage-licenses
( e x p l a i n i n g t h a t g e n e r a l l y a f e d e r a l d i s t r i c t c o u r t can e n j o i n
a defendant o n l y w i t h r e s p e c t t o the d e f e n d a n t ' s treatment of
p l a i n t i f f s a c t u a l l y b e f o r e the c o u r t and t h a t the r e m e d i a l
l i m i t a t i o n on f e d e r a l d i s t r i c t c o u r t s i s d e f i n e d by the
i d e n t i t y of the p l a i n t i f f s , not j u s t the i d e n t i t y of the
defendants) ( l a s t v i s i t e d March 10, 2015; a copy of the Web
page c o n t a i n i n g t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n i s a v a i l a b l e i n the case f i l e
of the c l e r k of the Alabama Supreme C o u r t ) .
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1140460
"This i n j u n c t i o n b i n d s Judge Don D a v i s and a l l h i s
o f f i c e r s , agents, s e r v a n t s and employees, and o t h e r s
i n a c t i v e c o n c e r t o r p a r t i c i p a t i o n w i t h any of them,
who would seek t o e n f o r c e the m a r r i a g e laws of
Alabama which p r o h i b i t o r f a i l t o r e c o g n i z e same-sex
marriage."
The

apparent

c l a r i f y who

purpose

of

this

latter

passage

was

to

i s bound by the f e d e r a l c o u r t ' s o r d e r , not what

a c t i o n t h a t o r d e r r e q u i r e s of those persons.

The q u e s t i o n of

"what" i s the s u b j e c t of the c l e a r statement i n the

previous

paragraph quoted above, i . e . , t h a t the enj o i n e d p a r t i e s are
directed

to i s s u e marriage l i c e n s e s s p e c i f i c a l l y

plaintiffs."

The

"to

subsequent r e f e r e n c e t o p e r s o n s who

[the]
"would

seek t o e n f o r c e the m a r r i a g e laws of Alabama" i s i n r e f e r e n c e
to Judge D a v i s and h i s agents,

employees, e t c . , t o the

extent

t h a t they would seek t o e n f o r c e the m a r r i a g e laws of Alabama
as

"to

[the] p l a i n t i f f s . "

We

are

f u r t h e r confirmed

i n our

r e a d i n g of the f e d e r a l c o u r t ' s o r d e r by our u n d e r s t a n d i n g ,
discussed

in

jurisprudence
adjudicates

notes

4

and

contemplates
the

5,
that

supra,
a

that

federal

o b l i g a t i o n s , i f any,

of

a

as

federal

court

district

court

defendant

or

defendants o n l y w i t h r e s p e c t t o the p l a i n t i f f o r p l a i n t i f f s i n
the case b e f o r e the c o u r t .
Dep't of Defense.

34

F.3d

See a l s o M e i n h o l d v. U n i t e d S t a t e s
1469,
7

1480

(9th C i r . 1994)

("An

1140460
i n j u n c t i o n 'should be no more burdensome t o the defendant than
necessary

to

provide

complete

relief

to

the

plaintiffs.'

C a l i f a n o V. Yamasaki. 442 U.S.

682, 702, 99 S. Ct. 2545, 2558,

61 L. Ed. 2d 176

T h i s i s not a c l a s s a c t i o n ,

Meinhold

(1979) .

...

sought o n l y t o have h i s d i s c h a r g e v o i d e d and

reinstated.

...

Beyond r e i n s t a t e m e n t

.. . , DOD

and

t o be

s h o u l d not be

c o n s t r a i n e d from a p p l y i n g i t s r e g u l a t i o n s t o M e i n h o l d and a l l
o t h e r m i l i t a r y p e r s o n n e l . " (emphasis a d d e d ) ) ; Zepeda v. U n i t e d
S t a t e s Immicr. & N a t u r a l i z a t i o n Serv. . 753 F.2d
C i r . 1983)
the

rights

Mathis

("A f e d e r a l c o u r t ... may
of

persons

Indep. Sch.

not

not attempt

before

D i s t . , 491

the

F.2d

719,
to

727

(9th

determine

c o u r t . ") ; Hoi Ion

92,

93

(5th C i r .

v.

1974)

( h o l d i n g t h a t "the i n j u n c t i o n a g a i n s t the S c h o o l D i s t r i c t from
enforcing
plaintiff]

i t s regulation against
reaches

further

than

anyone
is

other

necessary"

than

[the

(emphasis

added)).
As we

e x p l a i n e d i n our March 3 o p i n i o n , t h i s Court

a c t e d t o ensure s t a t e w i d e compliance
o r d e r l y and u n i f o r m manner.

has

w i t h Alabama law i n an

We have b e f o r e us i n t h i s case a

p e t i t i o n e r i n the form of the S t a t e t h a t has an i n t e r e s t i n
and s t a n d i n g as t o the a c t i o n s of e v e r y p r o b a t e judge i n the

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1140460
State.

Moreover, as

we

noted

i n the o p i n i o n ,

Alabama's

p r o b a t e judges took a v a r i e t y o f d i f f e r e n t p o s i t i o n s i n the
wake o f the f e d e r a l d i s t r i c t c o u r t ' s d e c i s i o n s , and no s i n g l e
circuit

c o u r t has j u r i s d i c t i o n

over a l l p r o b a t e

enable i t t o address t h a t d i s a r r a y .

judges

to

The i n c l u s i o n o f Judge

D a v i s , a l o n g w i t h a l l the o t h e r p r o b a t e judges i n t h i s S t a t e ,
as a respondent subj e c t t o t h i s C o u r t ' s March 3 o r d e r as t o
future

marriage-license

applicants

is

necessary

and

a p p r o p r i a t e t o the end o f a c h i e v i n g o r d e r and u n i f o r m i t y i n
the a p p l i c a t i o n of Alabama's m a r r i a g e laws.
Based on the f o r e g o i n g , Judge D a v i s

i s added t o

this

mandamus p r o c e e d i n g as a respondent and i s subj e c t t o t h i s
C o u r t ' s o r d e r o f March 3, 2 015 .
1975,

provides

licenses."

that

Judge

Davis

S e c t i o n 30-1-9, A l a . Code
"may"

issue

"marriage

To t h e e x t e n t he e x e r c i s e s t h i s a u t h o r i t y , he must

i s s u e those l i c e n s e s i n accordance w i t h the meaning of the
term "marriage" i n t h a t Code s e c t i o n and i n accordance w i t h
o t h e r p r o v i s i o n s of Alabama law, as d i s c u s s e d i n our March 3
opinion.

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1140460
Stuart,

P a r k e r , Murdock,

concur.
Shaw, J . , d i s s e n t s .

10

Main,

Wise,

and

Bryan,

1140460
SHAW, J u s t i c e ( d i s s e n t i n g ) .
As e x p l a i n e d

i n my

dissent

Alabama P o l i c y I n s t i t u t e ,
So. 3d

,

i n Ex p a r t e

State

ex r e l .

[Ms. 1140460, March 3, 2015]

( A l a . 2015), I do not b e l i e v e t h a t t h i s Court

has j u r i s d i c t i o n i n t h i s case; t h e r e f o r e , I d i s s e n t .

11