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McCormick v. Gordy

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama

March 25, 2019

SAMUEL ALLAN McCORMICK, Petitioner,
v.
CHRISTOPHER GORDY, Warden, Limestone Correctional Facility, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MYRON H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Samuel Allan McCormick, a state inmate, is before the court on his pro se motion, filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), for relief from this court's November 2016 final judgment denying his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas petition without an evidentiary hearing. He argues that the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, where he originally filed his habeas petition, determined that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his petition when it transferred the petition to this court, in the Middle District of Alabama, for disposition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d). For the reasons that follow, this court will deny McCormick's Rule 60(b)(4) motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         McCormick filed his habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on May 20, 2016. In his petition, he challenged his June 2012 state-court convictions and sentences for sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 years and enticement of a child for immoral purposes. After the respondents filed an answer asserting among other defenses the one-year limitation period in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d), the Northern District court found the case ripe for summary disposition and ordered him to show why his habeas petition should not be summarily dismissed for the reasons argued by the respondents. McCormick then filed pleadings attempting to avoid dismissal of his petition.

         On September 13, 2016, the Northern District court entered an order transferring McCormick's habeas petition to the Middle District of Alabama, finding that, although he was incarcerated within the Northern District, his convictions arose from a county within the Middle District. The transfer order stated:

"In this habeas action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the petitioner challenges his convictions [for] sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 years and enticing a child in the Circuit Court of Covington County, Alabama. Although this court has jurisdiction over the petition due to petitioner's incarceration at the Limestone Correctional Facility, 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d) provides that where two federal districts within a state have jurisdiction by virtue of, respectively, the place of the petitioner's confinement and the place of his conviction, the court where the petition was filed may ‘in the exercise of its discretion and in furtherance of justice ... transfer the application to the other district court for hearing and determination.' Covington County is located in the Northern Division of the Middle District of Alabama. 28 U.S.C. § 81(b)(1). Because the records and witnesses relating to the conviction are likely located in that district, it is hereby ORDERED that this action be and hereby is TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.”

Transfer Order (doc. no. 24) at 1-2.

         McCormick's case was docketed in this court, and, on November 17, 2016, after reviewing the pleadings, the United States Magistrate Judge entered a recommendation that his habeas petition be denied without an evidentiary hearing and dismissed as untimely filed outside of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)'s one-year limitation period. On November 30, 2016, the recommendation was adopted by this court, and a final judgment was entered for the respondents.

         McCormick filed his Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) motion on March 26, 2018, arguing that this court's November 2016 judgment denying his habeas petition without an evidentiary hearing is void because, he says, the Northern District court, in transferring the petition to this Middle District court, decided he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claims. According to McCormick, the Northern District court “conclusively determined that McCormick had overcome ALL statutory and procedural bars for summary disposition and determined McCormick was entitled to an evidentiary hearing and TRANSFERRED McCormick's petition in furtherance of justice for hearing and determination ... to be conducted by the United States Middle District Court of Alabama.” Rule 60(b) Motion (doc. no. 90) at 3. McCormick maintains this court's judgment dismissing his habeas petition as time-barred without holding an evidentiary hearing “intentionally contradict[ed] [Northern District court]'s decision” and is therefore void. Id. at 4.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for relief from a final judgment in a civil case on the following grounds:

“(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). McCormick seeks relief under subpart (4), arguing that this court's November 2016 judgment denying his habeas petition is void.

         If a court “act[s] without authority, its judgments and orders are regarded as nullities. They are not voidable, but simply void; and form no bar to a remedy sought in opposition to them, even prior to a reversal.” Elliott v. Peirsol's Lessee, ...


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