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Hantzis v. Grantland


April 1, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


In this civil action filed pro se by a federal prisoner, plaintiff alleges that defendants engaged in "a massive criminal conspiracy . . . to confiscate his real properties in California and have him deported." Amended Complaint ("Compl.") [Dkt. No. 3] at 2. The complaint stems from plaintiff's criminal prosecution and civil forfeiture proceedings in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. One of the named defendants, Brenda Grantland, moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to various provisions of Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A [Dkt. No. 9].*fn1 Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant parts of the record, the Court will grant the movant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(3) for improper venue.*fn2

As an attorney in private practice in Mill Valley, California, Ms. Grantland represented the plaintiff and his wife (Compl.) or girlfriend (Def.'s Mot.), Wilma Bloemhof, in the aforementioned civil forfeiture proceedings. See Def.'s Mot. at 2; Compl. ¶ 3. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Grantland "entered into [unauthorized] fraudulent stipulations," leaving him without an "available defense" under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act. Compl. ¶ 3. He accuses Ms. Grantland of pressuring Ms. Bloemhof "to sign the necessary paperwork so that the stipulation and order could be entered" to effect the government's sale of the forfeited property "for $390,000, when it was worth nearly three times that amount." Id. ¶ 7.

Under the circumstances presented, the proper venue for litigating this case against the movant is "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." 28 U.S.C. § 1391. Because nothing is alleged to have occurred (or to be situated) in the District of Columbia, Ms. Grantland rightly asserts that this venue is improper for litigating the claims.

In addition, Ms. Grantland rightly argues that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her. Although she remains an active member of the D.C. Bar, Ms. Grantland resides and works in California and has "not regularly practiced in the District since moving to California" in January 1993. Grantland Decl. ¶ 3. A court determines whether it may constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant by determining whether the defendant is subject to jurisdiction under the applicable long-arm statute, and if so, whether exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the constitutional requirements of due process. GTE New Media Services Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

Under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, this Court has jurisdiction over individuals or their agents for claims arising from business transactions, contracts to provide services, or tortious injuries that occurred in the District of Columbia. D.C. Code § 13-423(a)(1)-(4).*fn3 Because the plaintiff has the burden of establishing jurisdiction, he "must satisfy [the statutory] requirements and also establish minimum contacts within confines of due process before the Court can exercise personal jurisdiction [over the nonresident defendant]." Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 53 (D.D.C. 1998). The Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction cannot offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Cellutech, Inc. v. Centennial Cellular Corp., 871 F. Supp. 46, 48 (D.D.C. 1994) (quoting Dooley v. United Technologies Corp., 786 F. Supp 65, 71 (D.D.C. 1992)). Plaintiff asserts that Ms. Grantland "has continuously litigated in the District of Columbia and in fact still has a case pending in the District." Pl.'s Reply to Defendant Brenda Grantland's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 12(b) and Motion for Summary Judgment at 4. Those assertions, however, are belied by Ms. Grantland's declaration that she has not regularly practiced in the District of Columbia since 1993, is not counsel of record for the one case that remains from her former practice here, has "never made any money on [that case] and "do[es] not plan to accept any new cases" here. Grantland Decl. ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff has not stated any facts to support this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over Ms. Grantland under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute. See Cellutech, Inc., 871 F. Supp. at 48 ("[P]laintiff must allege some specific facts evidencing purposeful activity by defendants in the District of Columbia by which they invoked the benefits and protections of its laws and specific acts connecting the defendants with the forum.") (citations omitted).

For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Ms. Grantland's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) and (b)(3). A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

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