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Ex parte Moore

Supreme Court of Alabama

August 17, 2018

Ex parte Roy S. Moore and Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate
Roy S. Moore and Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate In re: Leigh Corfman

          Montgomery Circuit Court, CV-18-900017



         Roy S. Moore and his campaign committee, "Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate" ("the Committee"), have petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") to transfer an action filed by Leigh Corfman alleging defamation against Moore and the Committee to the Etowah Circuit Court. We deny the petition.

         The materials before the Court indicate that, in the fall of 2017, while Moore was a candidate for the United States Senate, reporters working for the Washington Post newspaper approached Corfman and questioned her about Moore. Corfman told the reporters that Moore had abused her in 1979 when she was 14 years old and Moore was 32 years old. Corfman's allegations appeared in a Washington Post article published on November 9, 2017. Moore has denied the allegations.

         In January 2018, Corfman filed in the Montgomery Circuit Court the defamation action underlying this mandamus petition. She averred in her complaint that, after publication of the Washington Post article, Moore and alleged representatives of the Committee asserted at campaign-related events, in public statements, and during media interviews that Corfman's allegations of abuse were false, malicious, and politically motivated. According to Corfman, Moore and the Committee "defamed [her] repeatedly and in all forms of media [by] calling her a liar and questioning her motivation for publicly disclosing [the alleged abuse]." Corfman's complaint also points to an affidavit Moore submitted to the Montgomery Circuit Court in an election contest he filed challenging the results of the election for the United States Senate seat. In the affidavit, Moore described Corfman's abuse allegations as "false" and "malicious" and averred that the results of a polygraph test showed that he had never had any contact with her.

         Moore and the Committee filed a motion for a change of venue of Corfman's defamation action to the Etowah Circuit Court based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The trial court denied that motion, and Moore and the Committee filed this mandamus petition.[2]

"Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ, to be issued only where there is (1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought, (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so, (3) the lack of another adequate remedy, and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court. Ex parte Integon Corp., 672 So.2d 497, 499 (Ala. 1995). 'A petition for the writ of mandamus is a proper method for presenting a venue challenge based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.' Id. (citations omitted). We apply the abuse-of-discretion standard when considering a mandamus petition challenging a venue ruling, and we will not issue the writ unless the trial court exercised its discretion in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Id."

Ex parte Brookwood Health Servs., Inc., 781 So.2d 954, 956-57 (Ala. 2000). Moore and the Committee bore the burden of persuasion in the trial court, Ex parte Perfection Siding, Inc., 882 So.2d 307, 312 (Ala. 2003), and they bear a heavy burden in this Court. Ex parte East Alabama Mental Health-Mental Retardation Bd., Inc., 939 So.2d 1, 5 (Ala. 2006). In reviewing the trial court's judgment, we are limited to the facts that were presented to that court. Ex parte Kane, 989 So.2d 509, 511 (Ala. 2008).

         Alabama's forum non conveniens statute provides:

"With respect to civil actions filed in an appropriate venue, any court of general jurisdiction shall, for the convenience of parties and witnesses, or in the interest of justice, transfer any civil action or any claim in any civil action to any court of general jurisdiction in which the action might have been properly filed and the case shall proceed as though originally filed therein."

§ 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975. Moore and the Committee rely primarily on the interest-of-justice prong of the forum non conveniens statute, although they also address the convenience-of-the-parties-and-witnesses prong.

"The 'interest of justice' prong of § 6-3-21.1 requires 'the transfer of the action from a county with little, if any, connection to the action, to the county with a strong connection to the action.' Ex parte National Sec. Ins. Co., 727 So.2d [788] at 790 [(Ala. 1998)]. Therefore, 'in analyzing the interest-of-justice prong of § 6-3-21.1, this Court focuses on whether the "nexus" or "connection" between the plaintiff's action and the original forum is strong enough to warrant burdening the plaintiff's forum with the action.' Ex parte First Tennessee Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 994 So.2d 906, 911 (Ala. 2008)."

Ex parte Indiana Mills & Mfg., Inc., 10 So.3d 536, 540 (Ala. 2008).

         As Moore and the Committee point out in their mandamus petition, both Corfman and Moore both live in Etowah County, and Corfman has alleged that the abuse occurred there. Moore and the Committee also point out that, although the registered address of the Committee was in Montgomery County during the campaign and the election, a few days after Corfman filed her defamation complaint the Committee changed its address to an address in Etowah County. They assert that the Committee has stopped conducting any activity in Montgomery County and has ...

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