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Pease v. Burke

March 7, 2008

RHETT W. PEASE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CECELIA BURKE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Rhett Pease commenced this action against defendants, all of whom either reside in Texas or have their principal place of business in Texas. Pending before this Court are defendants' motions to dismiss, as well as various motions filed by the plaintiff. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, applicable law, and the entire record, and for the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the defendants' motion to dismiss and DENIES as moot all remaining motions.

I. Background

Plaintiff Rhett Pease filed an "amended petition to enforce protected rights and for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages" in this Court on June 21, 2007, naming the following individuals and entities as defendants: Janell Pease, plaintiff's ex-wife and resident of Texas; Rique Bobbitt, Janell Pease's divorce lawyer and resident of Texas; the Office of the Attorney General of Texas; Terrell Flenniken, a Texas state judge and resident of Texas; Robert Orazco, an Assistant Attorney for the Office of Attorney General and resident of Texas; Lisa Ann Hubacek, an attorney with the Office of Attorney General and resident of Texas; the County of Lee, Texas; the Office of the Sheriff of Lee County, Texas; Lisa Teinert, a Lee County District Clerk and resident of Texas; and Cecelia Burke, a Director in the Office of Child Support Enforcement in Texas. See Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 8-18. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights during divorce and child support proceedings before a state court in Texas.

Both the Lee County Defendants and the Office of Attorney General of Texas have filed motions to dismiss the complaint premised on this Court's lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants.*fn1

II. Standard of Review

When personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff has the burden of establishing a factual basis for asserting personal jurisdiction over each individual non-resident defendant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). See also Mwani v. Bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Crane v. New York Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Accordingly, the plaintiff must allege specific acts connecting each defendant with the forum and cannot rely on conclusory allegations. See Second Amendment Found. v. United States Conference of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001); GTE New Media Serv. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1349 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

A. Failure to Prosecute

Plaintiff filed his amended petition on June 21, 2007. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that service of the summons and complaint be made upon a defendant within one hundred and twenty days after the filing of the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). If a defendant is not served within that timeframe, the Court may dismiss the action as to the unserved defendants or direct that service be accomplished within a specified time. Id. Because it appears from the record that Rique Bobbitt and Cecelia Burke have not been served within the period prescribed by Rule 4(m), this petition with respect to those defendants shall be dismissed for want of prosecution pursuant to Rule 41(b). See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 41(b).

B. Personal Jurisdiction

1. Legal Basis for Exercising Personal Jurisdiction

A District of Columbia court may exercise general personal jurisdiction over a person who is "domiciled in, organized under the laws of, or maintaining [a] principal place of business in, the District of Columbia as to any claim for relief." D.C. Code § 13-422.

For non-resident defendants, the Court engages in a two-part inquiry in order to determine whether it may exercise personal jurisdiction. First, the Court must determine whether specific jurisdiction may be exercised under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute. GTE New Media Serv. Inc., 199 F.3d at 1347; Savage v. Bioport, Inc., 460 F. Supp. 2d 55, 60 (D.D.C. 2006)("If a defendant does not reside within or maintain a principal place of business in the District of Columbia, then the District's long-arm statute, D.C. Code ยง 13-423, provides the only basis in which a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant."). Under the District's long-arm statute, a District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant who either: (1) transacts business in the District, (2) contracts to supply services in the District; (3) causes tortious injury in the District by an act or omission in the District, or (4) causes tortious injury in the District by an act or omission ...


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