Alabama Immigration Law (Act No. 2011-535)

Central Alabama Fair Housing Center v. Magee

On November 18, 2011, a lawsuit focused on Section 30 of Act No. 2011-535, as it applies to certain requirements concerning manufactured homes, was filed in the Middle District of Alabama.  Central Alabama Fair Housing Center v. Magee, Case No. 2:11-cv-00982-MHT-CSC (M.D. Ala., pending).  The case is assigned to the Honorable Myron H. Thompson. 

The Plaintiffs are an illegal alien and three organizations that focus on housing issues. (There were originally two illegal aliens bringing suit, but one of them voluntarily dismissed his claims.) The Plaintiffs seek to certify a class of illegal aliens who own, maintain, or keep a manufactured home in Alabama, as well as a subclass of those persons who are Latino.

The State Defendant is Julie P. Magee, the State Revenue Commissioner. The Honorable Jimmy Stubbs, the Judge of Probate for Elmore County, is also named as a defendant. The Attorney General’s Office represents Commissioner Magee.

The Plaintiffs allege that Section 30 is preempted, unconstitutional, and in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, insofar as it applies to business transactions required by Ala. Code § 40-12-255.  That provision requires that persons who own, maintain or keep manufactured homes in the State pay an annual registration fee and receive an identification decal, which is to be posted on the home.  Section 40-12-255 additionally requires that manufactured homes may only be moved on the State’s roads and highways if a moving permit has been issued.

The Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction

The Plaintiffs immediately asked for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.  A preliminary injunction is granted when a court determines that the plaintiffs have a substantial likelihood of winning on the merits and that the equities favor an injunction issuing.  A preliminary injunction only remains in place while the litigation continues through discovery, additional briefing, trial (if one is needed), and an ultimate decision on the merits. A temporary restraining order is similar, but remains in place for a very short time.  Neither the issuance of a temporary restraining order nor the issuance of a preliminary injunction means that the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail.

Commissioner Magee filed an opposition to the Plaintiffs’ motion.  She also filed numerous documents from the Northern District litigation, a motion asking to transfer the case to the Northern District, and a motion seeking to prevent the Plaintiffs from being allowed to call State Legislators as witnesses, in that such testimony is not relevant. 

The Court held a hearing on November 23, 2011, and took testimony.  Later that day, the Court entered a temporary restraining order.  The TRO was originally scheduled to automatically expire on December 7, but was extended to December 12 in order to give the Court more time to consider whether a preliminary injunction should issue.  

On November 28, 2011, Commissioner Magee filed: a notice of compliance with the Court’s TRO, which included her memorandum to local officials notifying them of the TRO; supplemental evidence concerning verification of an alien’s lawful presence in the United States; a motion to dissolve the TRO based on the supplemental evidence; and proposed findings of fact for the Court’s consideration in evaluating whether a preliminary injunction should issue.

The Court denied the motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order.

On December 5, 2011, Commissioner Magee filed a supplemental brief and evidence in opposition to the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

On December 12, 2011, the Court granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.  (Opinion; Order)  "Defendants Julie Magee and Jimmy Stubbs, and all those acting in concert with them, are preliminarily ENJOINED from requiring any person who attempts to pay the annual registration fee, required by 1975 Ala. Code § 40-12-255, to prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status" and "from refusing to issue the manufactured home deal, required by [the statute] to any person because that person cannot prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status."  Additionally Commissioner Magee was required to "notify immediately all county officials, who are responsible for enforcing the manufactured home registration requirements of 1975 Ala. Code § 40-12-255, of this preliminary injunction."  The Court further "DECLARE[D] that it is not a criminal violation of § 30 of HB 56 for an individual who owns, maintains, or keeps a manufactured home to make or attempt to make a registration payment and obtain a registration decal without providing proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status." 

Commissioner Magee has appealed.

Commissioner Magee's Motion to Dismiss

On December 9, 2011, Commissioner Magee filed a motion to dismiss.  Thereafter, she moved to submit, in support of that motion, a memorandum explaining that it is no longer considered a business transaction within the scope of Section 30 for a person to pay the annual registration fee and obtain a decal pursuant to Ala. Code § 40-12-255.  The Court granted the motion to supplement. 

On January 9, 2012, Commissioner Magee filed a reply in support of her motion to dismiss.  She argued both that the case is now moot and that the Plaintiffs lack standing. The next day, the Court ordered additional briefing as to whether the case is moot, whether the need for a preliminary injunction remains, and whether it can dissolve the preliminary injunction while the appeal is pending.  On January 17, 2012, Commissioner Magee responded that the preliminary injunction is not needed for the same reasons that the case is moot, and that, if the Court agrees, the better path is for the Court to indicate that it would dissolve the injunction if the case were remanded to it for that purpose by the appellate court.  On January 31, 2012, Commissioner Magee filed further briefing in support of her arguments.

Summary as of February 9, 2012