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Bryant v. People and Government of United States Virgin Islands

United States District Court, D. Vermont

June 3, 2014

SHEARA BRYANT, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS, ELMA BRATHWAITE, DOUGLAS L. DICK, Virgin Islands Department of Justice; VINCENT FRAZIER, Attorney General, Virgin Islands Department of Justice; ALVA CHESTERFIELD, SHERRY-ANN HUGHES, NOEL JAMES, ANGELA TRANT-CHRISTIAN, Virgin Islands Police Department; MICHAELL PETERSEN, Police Chief, Virgin Islands Police Department; ALMON FLEMING, Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority; NATASHA FREEMAN, LATOYA TURNBULL KRIGGER, DELORES POWELL, CELIA VICTOR, Virgin Islands Department of Human Services; WALTER RICHARDSON, Virgin Islands Environmental Health Department; THE HONORABLE AUDREY L. THOMAS, Virgin Islands Superior Court, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Doc. 27

J. GARVAN MURTHA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Sheara Bryant, proceeding pro se, alleges numerous civil rights violations and other claims against several individuals and the government of the United States Virgin Islands (collectively, the "defendants). A motion to dismiss has been filed on behalf of seven of the defendants. For the reasons below, the Court finds improper venue and lack of personal jurisdiction and this action is dismissed as to defendants The People and Government of the Virgin Islands, Elma Braithwaite, Douglas Dick, Sherry-Ann Hughes, Natasha Freeman, Almon Fleming, and Cecilia Victor.

II. Background

Liberally construed, Bryant's amended complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution surrounding the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services' removal of Bryant's children from her custody in 2007 and 2008. It also asserts various torts claims, including malicious prosecution, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress involving the denial of a farming permit and the Virgin Islands Police Department's failure to investigate reports of criminal activity. The Court previously recounted much of the facts of this case in its sua sponte review of Bryant's amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.[1] See Bryant v. Braithwaite, No. 1:12-cv-87-jgm, 2013 WL 877107, at *1-2 (D. Vt. Mar. 8, 2013). It granted Bryant leave to file a second amended complaint to allege, in more particularity, the role three attorneys played in her child custody hearings in the Virgin Islands. Id. at *6. Bryant did not file another complaint and the Court subsequently dismissed the three attorneys from the case, leaving the various state defendants. (Doc. 9).

III. Standard of Review

The Court accepts the material facts alleged as true and draws all reasonable inferences in Bryant's favor. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Bryant did not oppose the defendants' motion to dismiss, but the "failure to respond to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not warrant dismissal" if the complaint sufficiently states a claim upon which relief may be granted. McCall v. Pataki , 232 F.3d 321, 323 (2d Cir. 2000). "[T]he sufficiency of a complaint is a matter of law that the court is capable of determining based on its own reading of the pleading and knowledge of the law." Id. at 322-23.

IV. Discussion

The defendants contend venue in the District of Vermont is improper. In order to survive a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing of venue. Zaltz v. JDATE , 952 F.Supp.2d 439, 447 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Gulf Ins. Co. v. Glassbrenner , 417 F.3d 353, 355 (2d Cir. 2005).

In short, Bryant has not satisfied her burden. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), a plaintiff may bring a civil action in:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

Reading Bryant's complaint liberally, all defendants live in the Virgin Islands and all of the alleged events occurred in the Virgin Islands. From what the Court can tell, the only connection this case has to the District of Vermont is that Bryant apparently moved to Vermont in 2011 from the Virgin Islands. (Doc. 7 at ...


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