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Adams v. Horton

United States District Court, D. Vermont

June 8, 2017

BAHJI ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
KEITH HORTON, JANE DOE, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          ORDER (DOCS. 50, 52)

          Honorable J. Garvan Murtha United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Bahji Adams, proceeding pro se, originally brought this action against the Vermont Office of Child Support, Georgia Division of Child Support Services (“Georgia DCS”), Director Keith Horton, individually and as Commissioner for the DFCC State of Georgia, Commissioner for the State of Vermont for the Office of Child Support, Jane Doe, and John Doe. (Doc. 3 (“Compl.”).) Following motions to dismiss, the remaining defendants are Keith Horton in his individual capacity, Jane Doe, and John Doe. (Doc. 44.) Defendant Horton, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services, of which the Georgia DCS is a division, has filed a special appearance and motion to dismiss. (Doc. 50.) Adams opposes the motion and requests to replead her complaint. (Doc. 52.) Horton replied in further support of his motion and opposes the request to replead. (Docs. 53, 54). For the reasons discussed below, Horton's motion to dismiss is granted, Adams' request to replead is denied, and the case is dismissed.

         II. Background

         For a general background of this case, please see the Court's Order granting the prior motions to dismiss. (Doc 44 at 2-4.)

         For purposes of the pending motion to dismiss, the relevant facts are as follows. Defendant Horton has not been the Commissioner of Georgia DHS since July 2015. (Doc. 8.) Horton is currently the Assistant Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Horton is a resident of the State of Georgia and was a resident of Georgia during the time of the events alleged in the complaint. Horton has never lived or worked in Vermont, has no ongoing personal or business contacts with and does not own real estate in Vermont, is not a member of a Vermont partnership, limited liability company, or other entity, and does not conduct any business in Vermont. See Doc. 50-1 (Horton Aff.).

         Adams seeks injunctive relief against Horton. (Compl. at 78-79.)

         While pro se litigants are afforded a liberal pleading standard, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), nonetheless, a pro se litigant is not exempt from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law, Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983). III. Discussion A. Defendant Horton's Motion to Dismiss Defendant Horton moves to dismiss Adams' complaint against him in his individual capacity under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), and (6) based on lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the statute of limitations, and failure to state a claim. (Doc. 50.) Adams opposes the motion (Doc. 52) and Horton filed a reply (Doc. 53).

         On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. MacDermid, Inc. v. Deiter, 702 F.3d 725, 727 (2d Cir. 2012). Prior to discovery, a plaintiff may defeat a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction by pleading, in good faith, legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction. Dorchester Fin. Sec., Inc. v. Banco BRJ, S.A., 722 F.3d 81, 84-85 (2d Cir. 2013). The Court may consider pleadings and affidavits, and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.

         To meet her burden, Adams must plead facts sufficient to support a finding that personal jurisdiction is proper under Vermont's long-arm statute and the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In re Roman Catholic Diocese, 745 F.3d 30, 37-38 (2d Cir. 2014). Because Vermont's long-arm statute, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 913(b), extends personal jurisdiction to the outer limits permitted by the federal due process clause, the Court must analyze whether personal jurisdiction comports with due process. Id. at 38. The due process clause requires that a defendant “purposefully establish[] minimum contacts within the forum State . . . such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (1985) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Once minimum contacts are established, the Court must decide whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction is reasonable and acceptable under “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945).

         Personal jurisdiction may be specific or general. “Specific jurisdiction exists when a State exercises personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum; a court's general jurisdiction, on the other hand, is based on the defendant's general contacts with the forum state and permits a court to exercise its power in a case where the subject matter of the suit is unrelated to those contacts.” Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 567-68 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         General jurisdiction over an individual comports with due process in the forum where he is “at home, ” meaning the place of “domicile.” Sonera Holding B.V. v. Cukurova Holding A.S., 750 F.3d 221, 225 (2d Cir. 2014). A person may only have one domicile. United States v. Venturella, 391 F.3d 120, 125 (2d Cir. 2004). In an “exceptional case, ” an individual's contacts with a forum might be so extensive as to support general jurisdiction notwithstanding domicile elsewhere, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 761 n.16 (2014), but the Second Circuit has yet to find such a case. Here, Horton's domicile is Georgia and there is no indication Horton has any contact with the state of Vermont to render him subject to the general jurisdiction of Vermont's courts. See Doc. 50-1. Accordingly, general jurisdiction over Horton in Vermont would not comport with due process.

         With regard to specific jurisdiction, the complaint also fails to supply sufficient facts to support a finding that personal jurisdiction is proper. The claims against Horton, which relate to the 2007 child support order in the final judgment allegedly entered without accommodation for Adams' disabilities and subsequent enforcement of the order, do not arise out of or relate to any contacts of Horton with Vermont.[1] Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 754 (specific personal jurisdiction exists when a suit arises out of or is related to defendant's contacts with the forum state). Accordingly, the assertion of personal jurisdiction over Horton in his individual capacity would not comport with due process. Defendant Horton's motion to dismiss is granted. All claims against Horton in his individual capacity are dismissed.

         B. Adams' ...


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