Case Details


Criminal Jurisdiction, Mandamus

Filing State



Alabama Supreme Court




Ex parte State of Alabama [Petition for Writ of Mandamus], No. 1120498 (Ala. Feb. 15, 2013).


Attorney General superior to county sheriff “within the hierarchy of the exectuive branch of government.”

Case Description

An investigator with the Alabama attorney general’s office sought a search warrant for a facility where allegedly illegal gambling devices were located. The district court judge declined to issue the warrant because the sheriff of the county had certified the machines to be legal, so there was conflict between enforcers. The district court stated that any other decision would “put Judges of this State in the untenable position of determining which constitutional officer they choose to believe.” The attorney general appealed to the state supreme court. The Alabama supreme court first held that a writ of mandamus is appropriate in this case, because “a court considering the issuance of a warrant acts outside its discretion when it denies the warrant based on an improper or erroneous legal ground.” In this case, the erroneous legal ground included “reliance upon another public official’s opinion as to what is and what is not a crime under applicable law” because that is a decision for the judiciary. In addition, the court should not have treated as binding the opinion of the county sheriff, especially since the attorney general is “above him in within the hierarchy of the executive branch of government.”