United States District Court, D. Vermont
ORDER (DOCS. 50, 52)
Honorable J. Garvan Murtha United States District Judge
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.
general background of this case, please see the Court's
Order granting the prior motions to dismiss. (Doc 44 at 2-4.)
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.).
seeks injunctive relief against Horton. (Compl. at 78-79.)
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).
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.
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).
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).
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
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. 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