Sovereign Immunity from Liability In Alabama

The doctrine of sovereign immunity also applies to State officers and employees, who enjoy immunity from an action filed against them in either their official or individual capacity if the action is, in substance, one against the State. Mitchell, 598 So. 2d at 806. The immunity enjoyed by State officers and employees is not absolute, however, and, as we observed in Phillips v. Thomas, 555 So. 2d 81, 83 (Ala. 1989), the protective cloak of immunity sheltering these individuals from tort liability is not impenetrable. For example, 14 sovereign immunity does not protect State officers and employees under circumstances where a plaintiff alleges that they acted "willfully, maliciously, illegally, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond their authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law," Phillips, 555 So. 2d at 83, nor does it protect them from "a suit to compel the performance of a legal duty, a suit to enjoin the enforcement of an unconstitutional law, a suit to compel performance of a ministerial act, or a suit brought under the Declaratory Judgments Act." Mitchell, 598 So. 2d at 806. In order to claim the benefits of sovereign immunity, a State officer or employee bears the burden of showing that the plaintiff's claims arise from the officer or employee's performance of a discretionary duty on behalf of the State. Ex parte Davis, 721 So. 2d at 689. Upon such a showing, the burden shifts to the plaintiff, who must show that the officer or employee acted fraudulently, willfully, maliciously, or in bad faith. Id.