McCorvey v. Weaver et al
Order granting 4 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Jack B. Weaver. Plaintiff's claims against defendant Weaver are dismissed with prejudice. The Clerk is directed to terminate Judge Jack B. Weaver as a party defendant to this litigation. This action will proceed as to defendants Leston Stallworth andRoderick McCorvey. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 10/21/2014. Copy mailed to Plaintiff. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE JACK
WEAVER, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION 14-0377-WS-C
This matter comes before the Court on defendant Jack B. Weaver’s Motion to Dismiss
(doc. 4). The Motion has been briefed and is now ripe.1
Plaintiff, Simp McCorvey (“Simp”), proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing
a Complaint against Jack B. Weaver, a Circuit Judge in Monroe County, Alabama; plaintiff’s
brother, Roderick McCorvey (“Roderick”); and the brother’s attorney, Leston C. Stallworth, Jr.2
For purposes of its Rule 12(b)(6) analysis, the Court accepts as true all wellpleaded factual allegations of the Complaint, and draws all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff’s favor. See, e.g., Keating v. City of Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 762 (11th Cir. 2010) (in
reviewing Rule 12(b)(6) motion, court must “accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true,”
“draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor,” and “limit our review to the four
corners of the complaint”). Of course, “[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support are
entitled to no assumption of truth.” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011).
Federal subject matter jurisdiction appears proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
inasmuch as McCorvey appears to be lodging federal claims against defendants. The Complaint
identifies multiple constitutional provisions, and asserts that defendants’ conduct was “in direct
violation of Alabama law, and the United States Constitution.” (Doc. 1, 3.) Given these
allegations, and the liberal construction of pleadings drafted by pro se litigants, the Court is
satisfied that a sufficient jurisdictional predicate is present. See generally Tannenbaum v. United
States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.”).
According to the well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint, this action arises from a
previous lawsuit that Roderick (by and through his lawyer, Stallworth) brought against Simp in
Monroe County Circuit Court, in which Roderick claimed an ownership interest in certain real
property in Monroe County deeded solely in Simp’s name (the “Monroe County Lawsuit”). The
Monroe County Lawsuit commenced back in February 2009, at which time Simp was living and
working in Alaska. At some point during that litigation, Simp was transferred to Albuquerque,
New Mexico, where he continues to live and work today.
Simp’s geographic distance from Alabama, coupled with his pro se status, created certain
logistical difficulties in the Monroe County Lawsuit with regard to scheduling and conducting
court proceedings. The allegations of the Complaint reflect that the Monroe County Circuit
Court accommodated Simp’s logistical issues for quite some time; indeed, it appears that various
continuances and resettings were ordered from 2010 to 2012, at Simp’s behest. According to the
Complaint, that all changed in 2013. On September 3, 2013, Simp alleges, he was notified for
the first time that Judge Weaver had set the Monroe County Lawsuit for trial on September 11,
2013 (barely one week later), but that Simp could request a continuance if he wished. (Doc. 1, at
3.) Plaintiff alleges that he “did immediate certify mail to the Court the Plaintiff Motion, request
for a Continuous [sic] of this case to a more reasonable trail [sic] date, because [Simp] was never
given notice of hearing.” (Id.) As pleaded in the Complaint, however, Judge Weaver did not
grant the requested continuance, but went forward with the trial on September 11, 2013, despite
his knowledge that Simp could not attend on such short notice. On this point, the Complaint
states that Judge Weaver “Knew that the Plaintiff was not given Notice of the Hearing and would
not be at the Hearing” (id.), yet he went ahead with the trial anyway.
To make matters worse, the Complaint alleges, Judge Weaver granted Roderick’s
motion to dismiss the jury demand and conducted a bench trial at which he himself served as
finder of fact, all without Simp’s knowledge or consent. Following the trial, on September 12,
2013, Judge Weaver entered a written order finding that Roderick had a one-half interest in the
subject real property, and awarding Roderick $5,000 in attorney’s fees and $600 in costs. Simp
claims not to have received a copy of the September 12 order until October 25, 2013, by which
time he says it was too late to appeal. The Complaint alleges that Simp promptly filed an appeal
with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals after receiving the September 12 order, but that his
appeal was summarily rejected as untimely.
In the Complaint, Simp lays the blame for this sequence of events squarely at the feet of
Judge Weaver, characterizing him as an “openly corrupt court” proceeding from a “sick desire to
enrich [himself] at the Plaintiff[’s] expense.” (Id. at 1.) Simp alleges that Judge Weaver
manipulated the trial date to prevent Simp from attending, and that he “made sure that [Simp]
would not receive the order” deciding the case until after the time for appeal had expired. (Id. at
3.) The Complaint repeatedly utilizes the adjective “corrupt” to describe Judge Weaver.
Based on these allegations, Simp’s Complaint sets forth demands for the following relief:
(i) rescission/vacatur of the September 12, 2013 order; (ii) an award of $100,000 to Simp “for the
loss of his Oklahoma home that he lose [sic] due to the cost of the knowing false complaint;” and
(iii) “compensatory damages in the amount of $300,000.00.” (Doc. 1, at 5.)
Judge Weaver now moves to dismiss all claims against him pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
Fed.R.Civ.P., on grounds of judicial immunity and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Simp opposes
As an initial matter, Judge Weaver invokes the doctrine of judicial immunity. It is
hornbook law that “[j]udges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity from damages for those
acts taken while they are acting in their judicial capacity unless they acted in the clear absence of
all jurisdiction.” Sibley v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1070 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted); see also Dykes v. Hosemann, 776 F.2d 942, 944 (11th Cir. 1985)
(“Since the seventeenth century, common law has immunized judges from suit for judicial acts
within the jurisdiction of the court.”). “The rationale is that judges should not have to fear that
unsatisfied litigants will hound them with litigation.” Weinstein v. City of North Bay Village,
977 F. Supp.2d 1271, 1281-82 (S.D. Fla. 2013) (citation and internal marks omitted).
In applying the test for judicial immunity, “the first question is whether the judge dealt
with the plaintiff in his judicial capacity.” William B. Cashion Nevada Spendthrift Trust v.
Vance, 552 Fed.Appx. 884, 886 (11th Cir. Jan. 13, 2014). “If he did act in his judicial capacity,
then we ask whether the judge acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Id. If the judge
acted in his judicial capacity, and if he did not act in the clear absence of all jurisdiction, then he
is entitled to judicial immunity, as a matter of law. See Washington Mut. Bank v. Bush, 220
Fed.Appx. 974, 975 (11th Cir. Mar. 23, 2007) (“Judicial immunity applies when (1) the judge
dealt with the plaintiff in his judicial capacity and (2) the judge did not act in the clear absence of
all jurisdiction.”) (citation and internal marks omitted).
Beginning with step one, the Court readily concludes that Judge Weaver’s challenged
actions and rulings were all taken in his judicial capacity. “Whether a judge’s actions were made
while acting in his judicial capacity depends on whether: (1) the act complained of constituted a
normal judicial function; (2) the events occurred in the judge’s chambers or in open court; (3) the
controversy involved a case pending before the judge; and (4) the confrontation arose
immediately out of a visit to the judge in his judicial capacity.” Sibley, 437 F.3d at 1070. Here,
Simp’s allegations in the Complaint establish that Judge Weaver, a Monroe County Circuit
Judge, was the assigned judicial officer in a civil action between Roderick and Simp pending in
Monroe County Circuit Court. Plaintiff contends that Judge Weaver’s rulings in that state-court
action were unlawful and unconstitutional, but the fact remains that a judge’s rulings in a case
pending before that judge are the embodiment of “a normal judicial function.” Moreover, Simp
complains about events occurring in Judge Weaver’s chambers or his courtroom (i.e., the trial
and related rulings), relating to a case pending before him. Under any reasonable application of
the concept, Judge Weaver must be deemed to have been acting in his judicial capacity.
Because the Complaint’s allegations confirm that Judge Weaver was acting in his judicial
capacity, the analysis proceeds to step two, which provides that this defendant is entitled to
judicial immunity unless he acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. To be clear, “[j]udges
do not lose their judicial immunity even if they act in absence of jurisdiction as long as they do
not have knowledge that they lack jurisdiction or act in the face of clearly valid statutes or case
law expressly depriving them of jurisdiction.” Franklin v. Arbor Station, LLC, 549 Fed.Appx.
831, 834 (11th Cir. Sept. 27, 2013) (citation and internal marks omitted). Simp neither alleges
that Judge Weaver knew he lacked jurisdiction, nor identifies any Alabama statute or case law
that clearly deprived him of jurisdiction to enter rulings in the Monroe County Lawsuit.3 There
At best, Simp insinuates that Judge Weaver overstepped his bounds when he
conducted the Monroe County Lawsuit as a bench trial, rather than as a jury trial. Simp is
wrong. The Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure specify that “[t]he failure to appear, in person or
by counsel, at the trial is a waiver of trial by jury.” Rule 38(d), Ala.R.Civ.P. Under that rule,
then, Judge Weaver appears to have acted well within his authority (and, more to the point, did
not act in the clear absence of all jurisdiction) by proceeding with a bench trial when Simp did
not appear for trial and Roderick moved to dismiss the jury demand. In short, this circumstance
being no facts or circumstances presented in the Complaint or in Simp’s brief that might support
a determination that Judge Weaver acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction, the Court
concludes that the doctrine of judicial immunity applies. Accordingly, Judge Weaver is
absolutely immune from the claims asserted by Simp.
Of course, the Court recognizes that the Complaint is sprinkled liberally with assertions
that Judge Weaver acted corruptly or out of a desire for personal enrichment.4 Those allegations
in no way alter the foregoing analysis. Binding authorities unequivocally establish that judicial
immunity “applies even when the judge is accused of acting maliciously and corruptly.” Pierson
v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554, 87 S.Ct. 1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 288 (1967); see also Bolin v. Story, 225
F.3d 1234, 1239 (11th Cir. 2000) (“This immunity applies even when the judge’s acts are in
error, malicious, or were in excess of his or her jurisdiction.”); Wilson v. Bush, 196 Fed.Appx.
796, 799 (11th Cir. Sept. 8, 2006) (“Wilson’s claims are based on allegations that the judges
acted corruptly and conspired with Bush and not that they acted in the absence of all jurisdiction.
The district court properly found that judicial immunity shields them from suit.”); Bush v.
Washington Mut. Bank, 177 Fed.Appx. 16, 18 (11th Cir. Apr. 11, 2006) (“judicial immunity
prevents a civil suit against a federal judge accused of taking bribes,” and aggrieved party’s
remedies are to appeal or to file judicial complaint).
In short, the doctrine of judicial immunity bars all of Simp’s claims asserted herein
against Judge Weaver.
As a separate and independent ground for dismissal, Judge Weaver invokes the RookerFeldman doctrine as to Simp’s claims for rescission and vacatur of the September 12, 2013 order
and judgment in the Monroe County Lawsuit.
in no way eliminated or jeopardized Judge Weaver’s entitlement to judicial immunity for rulings
in the Monroe County Lawsuit.
Simp hammers the point home in his brief as follows: “The plaintiff believes the
well known rumor that the judges in Corrupt Monroeville court system had for some time now
awarded attorneys with outrageous awards with the intent to Met [sic] up later in some dark alley
to divide the award.” (Doc. 10, at 8.)
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine precludes “lower federal courts from exercising
jurisdiction over cases brought by state-court losers challenging state-court judgments rendered
before the district court proceedings commenced.” Brown v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 611
F.3d 1324, 1330 (11th Cir. 2010) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also
Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F.3d 1266, 1270 (11th Cir. 2009) (“Generally speaking, the RookerFeldman doctrine bars federal district courts from reviewing state court decisions.”). “This is
because appellate authority over final state-court decisions rests with the Supreme Court of the
United States.” Carter v. Killingsworth, 540 Fed.Appx. 912, 914 (11th Cir. Sept. 6, 2013).5
Simply put, “[t]he doctrine bars the losing party in state court from seeking what in substance
would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States district court, based on the
losing party’s claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser’s federal rights.” Brown, 611
F.3d at 1330 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).6
The Eleventh Circuit has utilized a four-factor test, concluding that federal jurisdiction is
barred under Rooker-Feldman principles where: “(1) the party in federal court is the same as the
party in state court;” “(2) the prior state court ruling was a final or conclusive judgment on the
merits;” “(3) the party seeking relief in federal court had a reasonable opportunity to raise its
federal claims in the state court proceeding;” and “(4) the issue before the federal court was
either adjudicated by the state court or was inextricably intertwined with the state court’s
judgment.” Nicholson, 558 F.3d at 1272 (citations omitted).
This case calls for a paradigmatic application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The
Complaint leaves no doubt that Simp is effectively asking this federal district court to act as a de
facto appellate court, reviewing and reversing Judge Weaver’s rulings in the Monroe County
See also Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (“The RookerFeldman doctrine makes clear that federal district courts cannot review state court final
judgments because that task is reserved for state appellate courts or, as a last resort, the United
States Supreme Court.”).
“We reject, from the outset, the use of § 1983 as a device for collateral review of
state court judgments.” Sibley, 437 F.3d at 1070. Insofar as Simp is asking this Court “to fix an
erroneous state court judgment,” his request is something that the undersigned “could not do.”
Id. at 1070 n.3.
Lawsuit.7 That is precisely the sort of jurisdictional overreach that Rooker-Feldman principles
forbid. Here, the party in federal court is the same as that in the Monroe County Lawsuit. Judge
Weaver’s ruling of September 12, 2013 (which Simp asks this Court to set aside) is plainly a
final or conclusive judgment on the merits. Simp had ample opportunity to raise any federal
claims or issues he wished in the Monroe County Lawsuit at any time during its four-year
lifespan; indeed, by his own admission, he filed numerous motions and an appeal in state court,
and identifies no impediment to his ability to raise any federal claims in those state proceedings.
Furthermore, the issues Simp presents here (i.e., that Judge Weaver’s rulings were the product of
corruption and should be vacated) are inextricably intertwined with those rulings themselves.
See Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (“A claim is inextricably intertwined
if it would effectively nullify the state court judgment ….”) (citation and internal quotation
Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine, but this case is a textbook example of the kind of
circumstance it was designed to cover. Simp is a state-court loser who claims to have been
injured by the manner in which the state-court judgment was reached prior to the commencement
of these proceedings, and who now wants this Court to review and reject the state court’s
judgment concerning ownership of the subject real property. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine
deprives this Court of jurisdiction to do so. See Casale, 558 F.3d at 1261 (Rooker-Feldman
“continues to apply with full force to cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries
caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and
inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments”).
For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant Judge Jack B. Weaver’s Motion to Dismiss
(doc. 4) is granted. Simp’s claims against this defendant, a state-court judge acting in his
judicial capacity as to matters in which there was not a clear absence of jurisdiction, are barred
by principles of judicial immunity. Moreover, to the extent that Simp’s claims against this
defendant call for federal court review and reversal of Judge Weaver’s rulings in the underlying
Indeed, in the ad damnum clause of the Complaint, Simp requests that the
undersigned “Grant [him] relief from this Corrupt Judge Jack B. Weaver unlawful order by
resending [sic] / setting aside the Alabama secret order giving away the plaintiff Alabama
Property [sic].” (Doc. 1, at 5.)
state-court litigation, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter
jurisdiction to do so. Accordingly, plaintiff’s claims against defendant Weaver are dismissed
with prejudice. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate Judge Jack B. Weaver as a party
defendant to this litigation. This action will proceed as to defendants Leston Stallworth and
DONE and ORDERED this 21st day of October, 2014.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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