United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
WILLIAM H. STEELE, Chief District Judge.
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.
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.
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 the request.
A. Judicial Immunity.
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 ...