Alabama Supreme Court Dismisses State Agencies from Appeal: Trial Court Was Without Jurisdiction Over Them

In State Board of Education v. Mullins, No. 1080007, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed state agencies from the appeal, noting sovereign immunity rendered the trial court without jurisdiction over them.

The plaintiffs filed the underlying action and named a number of state education agencies and officials as defendants.  The trial court entered a preliminary injuction against all of the defendants and they appealed.  Before turning to the merits of the appeal (none of which are topical to this blog), the court considered the issue of the state character of a number of the defendants.  

In addition to the individually-named defendants sued in their official capacities, the plaintiffs sued the Board of Education itself, as well as Bishop State Community College, Bevil State Community College, and Southern Union State Community College.  All of these are agencies of the State.  As the court recently held, "only State officers named in their official capacity–and not State agencies–may be defendants in [declaratory-judgment] proceedings."  

Consequently, the Board and colleges were immune from suit, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over them, the order was void, and the appellate court  dismissed the Board and colleges from the appeal.