The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals issued a unanimous (5-0) ruling granting Trinity Medical Center its petition for a Writ of Mandamus. In doing so, the Court handed Trinity Medical Center a major victory in its ongoing fight to complete a state-of-the-art hospital along Highway 280.
Trinity Medical Center received a Certificate of Need in 2010 for this long-awaited, strongly desired project, but its opponents, Brookwood Medical Center and St. Vincent’s Hospital, have obstructed and delayed Trinity’s efforts to move forward at every juncture.
At issue in this ruling is whether Judge Jimmy Pool, a District Court Judge who was sitting as a special Circuit Court Judge in Brookwood and St. Vincent’s latest appeal of Trinity’s CON, acted improperly when he decided that the case should be turned back over to an Administrative Law Judge and the CON Review Board for further consideration. In the opinion issued recently, the Court of Civil Appeals said that:
“…the circuit court lacked such authority and we issue a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate its remand order.”
A writ of mandamus is considered an extraordinary judicial remedy in which a higher court determines that a lower court has erred and commands the lower court to correct a particular action.
When Judge Pool attempted to send the case back to an Administrative Law Judge, he based his decision, in large part, on sixteen documents that Brookwood and St. Vincent’s claimed had not been available prior to the CON Review Board’s initial, unanimous decision to grant the Certificate of
Need. However, those documents were produced by Trinity Medical Center, in advance of the CON Review Board’s re-hearing and the CON Review Board found them irrelevant to its decision. The Court ruling also finds those documents were not grounds for remand:
“Having concluded that the 16 documents were properly before the CONRB upon the applications for reconsideration, we conclude that those documents are not ‘additional evidence’.”
The ruling sends the case back to Judge Pool, where he is expected to take up Trinity’s motion to dismiss three claims by Brookwood, and then to move forward with a decision on the underlying appeal of the CON by Brookwood and St. Vincent’s. The Court of Civil Appeals addressed the urgency of the matter by saying:
“We anticipate that the circuit court will promptly consider Trinity’s motion concerning those claims following the issuance of this opinion.”
Trinity Medical Center appreciates the Court of Civil Appeal’s careful consideration of our case and their sensitivity to the urgency of this matter. We are hopeful Judge Pool will now take up our case with the same priority to help reach resolution of this pressing community issue that has been postponed long enough.
It is also our sincere hope that our competitors will once and for all end their self-serving attempts to further delay this process. The project has already spent more than three years in the Certificate of Need process.
Trinity Medical Center stands committed, ready, and eager to proceed with the Highway 280 hospital, which would boost the local economy by injecting hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs and creating thousands of jobs. Most importantly, it would increase access to quality healthcare services for local residents. We sincerely hope that we will soon get the chance to move forward with this vitally important project.