Amerson was here to sway legislators in favor of SB90, a bill that would give jail employees and corrections officers the same legal protections afforded sheriffs.
In the end, they got the bill they wanted
At 11:22 p.m., just 38 minutes before the legislature’s deadline to end the 2011 regular session, the House passed the bill 89-5, with two abstentions. Sheriffs from around the state had been in Montgomery to lobby for the bill.
“It’s important because it could eliminate huge amounts of frivolous lawsuits,” said Amerson, whose fellow lobbyists for the bill included members of the Association of County Commissions.
The measure grants jail officers the same “sovereign immunity” granted to sheriffs and sheriff’s deputies — an immunity which protects them from liability for actions taken while performing their duties, as long as they comply with the law.
Opponents of the bill said the measure would grant jailers immunity from prosecution when they harm people. Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said the bill is a response to a court case in which a Houston County corrections officer ran a red light and killed someone. The jailer appealed to a court for sovereign immunity and was denied, Givan said.
“Put yourself in the family member’s place that lost a child, that lost a loved one, because a jailer was negligent,” she said.
Supporters of the bill noted that the bill doesn’t grant immunity to corrections officers who break the law.
“This bill would not protect a jailer or corrections officer who abused an inmate,” said Rep. Allan Farley, R-McCalla, “But if they are not violating or abusing anybody, they should fall under the scope of the Sheriff’s immunity.”
Proponents of the bill also said the measure would save local governments money by preventing lawsuits.
All members of the local delegation except Rep. Barbara Boyd voted for the bill. Boyd did not vote, according to legislative records.
Amerson is facing a lawsuit from the parent of a boy who came to the jail for an educational program earlier this year. A video taken at the jail, and obtained by The Star, showed Amerson apparently using manual force against the boy.
Asked if SB90 would affect that lawsuit, Amerson simply said, “No.”
Amerson and his colleagues were among dozens of lobbying delegations on Goat Hill Thursday, as the Legislature wraps up its first session under Republican control since Reconstruction.