McCorvey v. Weaver et al
ORDER granting 13 Motion to Dismiss; granting 18 Motion to Dismiss. plaintiff's claims against both Roderick McCorvey and Leston Stallworth aredismissed with prejudice. Because this Order disposes of all remaining claims and issues joined in this action, the Clerk of Court is directed to close this file. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 1/12/2015. 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 Roderick McCorvey’s Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint (doc. 13) and on defendant Leston Stallworth’s Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff’s Complaint (doc. 18). Both Motions have been briefed and are now ripe for
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 lawyer, 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).
By Order (doc. 11) entered on October 21, 2014, this Court granted defendant
Jack B. Weaver’s motion to dismiss on grounds of judicial immunity and the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Plaintiff’s subsequent motion to reconsider was denied by Order (doc. 16) dated
November 14, 2014. Thus, defendant Judge Weaver has been dismissed from this case, and only
plaintiff’s claims against Roderick and Stallworth remain.
As pleaded in the Complaint, this action arises from plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with certain
events that transpired in underlying state-court litigation. In particular, the well-pleaded factual
allegations of the Complaint reflect that Roderick (by and through his attorney, Stallworth) filed
suit against Simp in Monroe County Circuit Court back in 2009, with Roderick claiming an
interest in certain real property deeded solely in Simp’s name (the “Monroe County Lawsuit”).
Simp represented himself in the Monroe County Lawsuit. Throughout the pendency of the
Monroe County Lawsuit, Simp resided a great distance from Monroe County, Alabama (first in
Alaska and later in New Mexico); therefore, Simp sought certain accommodations (i.e.,
permission to participate in certain hearings telephonically, and reasonable advance notice of any
trial setting) to facilitate his involvement in the case.
According to Simp’s Complaint, he did not receive written notice of the final jury trial
setting in the Monroe County Lawsuit (although he had received notice of trial settings that had
subsequently been continued). That said, Simp admits that he called Judge Weaver’s office on
September 3, 2013 to inquire as to the status of hearings on three pending pretrial motions and
particularly to ascertain whether he might be authorized to attend such hearings by telephone.
During that September 3 conversation, the Complaint alleges, Judge Weaver’s assistant notified
Simp that “there was a trial set for 09/11/2013 and that the plaintiff had to request a continuous
[sic] for a more reasonable date.” (Doc. 1, at 3.) Simp alleges that he promptly mailed a request
for continuance to the court, but that Judge Weaver went forward with the trial on September 11,
2013 anyway, despite knowledge that Simp could not attend on such short notice. When the trial
began, the Complaint alleges, Judge Weaver granted Roderick’s motion to dismiss the jury
demand and proceeded to conduct a bench trial without Simp’s knowledge or consent. At trial,
according to the Complaint, Roderick and Stallworth knowingly presented a false claim and false
witness statements to support Roderick’s claim to an interest in the subject real property.
Following the trial, on September 12, 2013, Judge Weaver entered a written order finding that
Roderick possessed 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.
Indeed, the Complaint alleges that after Simp received the September 12 order, he promptly filed
an appeal with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, which summarily rejected it as untimely.
On the strength of these allegations, Simp demands the following relief in his Complaint:
(i) an order rescinding or setting aside Judge Weaver’s ruling of September 12, 2013; (ii) an
award of $100,000 for the loss of Simp’s Oklahoma home “due to the cost of the knowing false
complaint;” and (iii) “compensatory damages in the amount of $300,000.00.” (Doc. 1, at 5.)
Roderick and Stallworth have now filed virtually identical Motions to Dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In those Motions, Roderick and
Stallworth contend that Simp’s claims are barred by straightforward application of the RookerFeldman doctrine.
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
Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., 713 F.3d 1066, 1072 (11th Cir. 2013) (“The RookerFeldman doctrine states that federal district courts have no authority to review final judgments of
a state court.”) (citations omitted); Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F.3d 1266, 1270 (11th Cir. 2009)
(“Generally speaking, the Rooker-Feldman 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).3 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).4
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 v. Lando, 437 F.3d 1067, 1070 (11th Cir. 2005). Insofar as Simp
is asking this Court “to fix an erroneous state court judgment,” then, his request is something that
the undersigned “could not do.” Id. at 1070 n.3.
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 paradigmatic application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The
Complaint leaves no doubt that Simp is asking this federal district court to act as a de facto
appellate court, reviewing and reversing Judge Weaver’s final ruling in the Monroe County
Lawsuit. Indeed, the Complaint specifies that Simp wants this Court to rescind or set aside the
state court’s September 12, 2013 order, which was entered before this federal action began. This
is a textbook example of the sort of federal suit barred by Rooker-Feldman principles. See, e.g.,
Casale v. Tillman, 558 F.3d 1258, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009) (Rooker-Feldman “continues to apply
with full force to cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by statecourt judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district
court review and rejection of those judgments”). In terms of the four-factor test, all such factors
are present here. First, the party in federal court (Simp) is obviously identical to that in the
Monroe County Lawsuit. Second, the September 12 ruling of Judge Weaver in the state court
action is plainly a final or conclusive judgment on the merits. Third, Simp had ample
opportunity to raise any federal claims or issues he wanted at any time during the Monroe
County Lawsuit’s four-year lifespan; indeed, in the Complaint, Simp admits that he successfully
filed numerous motions and an appeal in state court, and identifies no impediment to his ability
to raise any federal claims in those state court proceedings. Fourth, the issues that Simp presents
in this lawsuit (i.e., that Judge Weaver was corrupt, that the September 12 Order was unlawful
and should be rescinded, and that Simp is entitled to compensatory damages for the adverse
result in the Monroe County Lawsuit) are inextricably intertwined with the state court’s
judgment. See Casale, 558 F.3d at 1260 (“A claim is inextricably intertwined if it would
effectively nullify the state court judgment ….”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
In determining that the requisite factors for the Rooker-Feldman doctrine are present
here, the Court has considered and rejected Simp’s arguments to the contrary in his briefs. As
for Simp’s repeated labeling of the state-court trial as a “secret hearing” that he “was never
invited to attend,” the Complaint expressly and unambiguously refutes such a notion. By Simp’s
own admission in his pleading, he was informed on September 3, 2013 that “there was a trial set
for 09/11/2013.” (Doc. 1, at 3.) The trial could not have been “secret” given Simp’s
acknowledgment that he knew about it ahead of time, but apparently failed to follow up with
state court officials in a timely manner thereafter to determine if his request for continuance of
same had been granted.5 Similarly, Simp’s contention that he “did not have an opportunity to
raise any of his claims at the Alabama state Court level” is frivolous. (Doc. 19, at 10.) Simp
does not suggest that the state court ever denied him the ability to file any motions, pleadings or
other papers that he wished to submit in the Monroe County Lawsuit; to the contrary, his
Complaint is rife with examples of just such submissions. That the state court may have rejected
his claims or failed to grant him the relief he requested is analytically distinct from the relevant
question of whether Simp was able to raise any claims he wished. That question is answered in
the affirmative, based on Simp’s own well-pleaded factual allegations in the Complaint. Finally,
Simp’s assertion that his claims in this federal action are not intertwined with the state court’s
judgment fails on its face; after all, his Complaint is expressly asking that the state-court
judgment be rescinded or set aside (and that he be awarded compensatory damages for that
judgment) because the state court judge was conspiring against him with the adverse party. It is
difficult to imagine an issue being more intertwined with the state-court judgment than that.
The bottom line is this: Rooker-Feldman is a narrow doctrine, but this case is precisely
the kind of circumstance it was designed to cover. Simp is an unsuccessful state-court litigant
who claims to have been injured by the manner in which the adverse state-court judgment was
reached prior to the commencement of these federal proceedings, and who now wants this Court
to review and reject that state-court judgment concerning ownership of the subject real property.
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine forbids this Court from acting in such an appellate capacity by
reviewing state-court judgments rendered before the federal proceedings commenced.
Indeed, Simp does not allege that Monroe County court officials ever gave him
misleading or false information when he contacted them regarding the status of the case, nor
does he suggest that there was any reason he could not have made a simple phone call to the state
court after September 11, 2013 to determine whether the previously announced trial had taken
place and, if so, whether a final judgment had been entered.
For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant Roderick McCorvey’s Motion to Dismiss
(doc. 13) and defendant Leston Stallworth’s Motion to Dismiss (doc. 18) are both granted.
Plaintiff’s claims in this action call for a federal court to review and strike down a state-court
ruling in underlying proceedings between the parties. Such federal appellate review of state
judgments is forbidden by straightforward application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Accordingly, plaintiff’s claims against both Roderick McCorvey and Leston Stallworth are
dismissed with prejudice. Because this Order disposes of all remaining claims and issues
joined in this action, the Clerk of Court is directed to close this file for administrative and
statistical purposes. A separate judgment will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this 12th day of January, 2015.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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